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First Film Festival On Water For Socially Distanced Movie Buffs

The fourth edition of the Carl International Film Festival is currently under way in Karlskrona, Sweden. The popular event has previously been held at cinemas and screening venues around the town but, this year, the global pandemic forced the organizers to get creative.

“We were on the verge of canceling the festival, but decided to transform it instead,” says festival director Henrik JP Åkesson Ruben.

The result is the world’s first film festival on water—and it is no coincidence that it is taking place here, in Karlskrona.

Sweden’s southernmost archipelago

Sweden’s southernmost archipelago can be found just off the coast of Karlskrona in the Blekinge region. This stunningly picturesque coastline, made up of some 1,650 islands, islets and rocky ridges, boasts numerous small harbors and fishing ports that are ideally suited to a sunny summer’s day spent bobbing up and down on the water.

As Melinda Martino from VisitSweden, the national tourism board of Sweden, explains, Swedes are no strangers to boats or being on the water.

“Recreational boating is very popular in Sweden: one third of Sweden’s adult population travels by boat at least once a season and the recreational boat ownership density is high,” she says, adding that the number of adults per recreational boat is 13 in Sweden, compared to 25 in the US for example, according to statistics from Sweboat, the trade organization representing the Swedish marine industry.

Film festival in a fishing harbor

After discussions with local authorities, law enforcement and coastguards, the 2020 edition of Carl International Film Festival eventually landed at Saltö Fish Harbor, on the small island of Saltö (or Salt Island), which is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

An LED screen measuring 870 square feet has been set up to project movies across the harbor, which has the capacity to host up to 100 boats. However, numbers ultimately had to be limited to 25 boats, or 50 people, in line with government guidelines on social distancing and gatherings.

Safety first

Henrik JP Åkesson Ruben explains that security staff and divers have been deployed in the festival area to maintain the highest levels of safety and security.

“This is the world’s first film festival on water, where the audience keeps a safe distance from each other by staying on their boats and watching films,” he says, adding that there have been some surprises along the way, including an unexpected visit from a Swedish naval vessel during the opening ceremony.

A resounding success

“The ship has remained nearby to support our event,” he continues. “In general, we’ve been surprised that everything has gone so smoothly: people have stayed in their boats, the food deliveries from local restaurants have worked perfectly, and the audience has been entertained, not just by the magic of cinema, but also by live music and interviews. The evenings have been especially beautiful with the screen reflected in the water—a fishing harbor is a truly magical place for a cultural event.”

The theme for this year’s festival is “From Hope To Action”, and the lineup features classic movies from Swedish directors, such as Ingmar Bergman, Marie-Louise Ekman, Lasse Hallström, Lasse Åberg, Jan Troell and Suzanne Osten, as well as a selection of films from the Baltic Sea region, as part of the Baltic Sea Competition, which seeks to promote Baltic cinema internationally. The festival program also includes music, interactive seminars, and conversations with filmmakers.

The fourth edition of the Carl International Film Festival began on August 21 and will end on August 26, 2020.


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