Swedish festival to host Arabian programme; eight Nordic films compete for lucrative Dragon prize.

UK director Michael Winterbottom [pictured] will receive the Honorary Dragon Award after screening his new India-set drama Trishna at Sweden’s Göteborg International Film Festival (Jan 27-Feb 6).

The festival, which attracts an impressive 200,000 admissions, will have a special focus on Arabian cinema with 13 new films (adding nine in retrospectives), and Hidden Histories from China, organised in collaboration with the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

The festival notably offers the Dragon prize worth one million Swedish crowns ($145,000) for Best Nordic Film.

”We will have a lot of interesting guests this year, also US director Alexander Payne, with The Descendants,” explained the festival’s artistic director Marit Kapla. ”Jury chairmen for the Dragon and Bergman awards are Austrian director Jessica Hausner and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, who will show his leatest film, Alps.”

Eight Nordic films are selected for the Dragon competition, which will by opened by Swedish director Axel Petérsen’s Avalon. Besides local contenders - Patrik Eklund’s Flimmer (Flicker), Ester Martin Bergsmark’s Pojktanten (She Male Snails) – there are for the first time two local contenders, Arild Andresen’s Company Orheim (Kompani Orheim) and Jens Lien’s Sons of Norway (Sønner af Norge).

Eight directors have been nominated for the Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award, including a visit to the Bergman Week and an engraved stone from his Fårö beack: Liza Johnson (US), Gust Van Den Berghe and Nicolas Provost (Belgium), Yulene Olaizola (Mexico), Marjane Satrapi (France), Alice Rohrwacher (Italy), Andrew Haigh (UK), and Slava Ross (Russia).

The festival’s focus on Arabian cinema was decided already during last years event, when the Egyptian Revolution proceeded full throttle at the Tahrir Square in Cairo. ”We suddenly realised that people living in other corners of the Earth want, need, and are entitled to the same human rights as we are. Although the awareness has been with us before, it created a golden opportunity, right now, for greater understanding between people around the world. Film can play a key role,” Kapla recalled.

The Chinese sidebar comprises a package of new independent documentaries from China, as well as old and recent films by Chinese director Ai Weiwei, who was arrested and imprisoned last spring. Three Chinese directors will meet the audiences: Ji Dan, Xu Tong and Zhang Zanbo. – Not missing the annual presentation of last year’s Swedish premieres, the 35th Göteborg 11-day programme totals 429 films from 80 countries, 750 screenings, 40 master classes, seminars, conferences, and exhibitions.