Behind the Scenes – Gisela Ritzén looks back on the road to her first edition as organiser of EACD in Sweden

Photo by Mireille Lynn Rosas

Sweden's EACD

In 2023, Sweden took part in the European Arthouse Cinema Day under the coordination of a country manager for the first time. 25 cinemas around the country participated in the event, selling over 1500 tickets, to 104 screenings, presenting 47 different films. Gisela Ritzén, Sweden’s national EACD project manager, sat down with us to look back on the work she did to develop the event and how we can continue to build on this successful beginning.

Arthouse Cinema in Sweden

Ritzén says Sweden can feel a bit far from the more vibrant cinema cultures of Germany, France, and Spain. Although it boasts its own dynamic cinema scene, it is sparsely populated, and far north, things sometimes might happen a bit later than the rest of the continent. That distance makes it more difficult, especially in the Swedish smaller towns, to sell a cinema on a film by an unknown director, whose name won’t be automatically recognised by the audience. For those reasons, Ritzén “urge the industry not to forget about their Nordic neighbours”. Ritzén also believes starting social media promotion earlier could help raise awareness and make it easier to get rural cinemas on board.

Finding the EACD's place in a busy festival scene

When organizing the EACD programming, Ritzén was also faced with strong competition from other international film festivals and the national Stockholm Film Festival. She had hoped to premiere Ken Loach’s ‘Old Oak’, Molly Manning Walker’s ‘How to have Sex’ or Aki Kaurismäki’s ‘Fallen Leaves’ at EACD 2023 - but all had already been premiered at the Stockholm Film Festival. However, thanks to negotiations with distributors, germany’s ‘The Teacher’s lounge’ could be premiered during the EACD. Fallen Leaves had already had its cinema premiere in Sweden and had had a great run, which led to a great publicity around it helped by some promotion specifically for EACD, which led some cinemas to screen it again despite its earlier release. Finland’s ‘Four Little Adults’ was even previewed during the day, accompanied by a pre-recorded video greeting from lead actress Alma Pöysti, that was used in the cinemas before the screening. But could a big-name premiere across all participating countries open the door for a larger audience?

A few hurdles

Ritzén thinks building closer connections to other European countries and maintaining more regular communication with the CICAE committee will help to solve these early issues, bring the Swedish scene forward and motivate more cinemas to participate. While 25 cinemas taking part in the first Swedish EACD is definitely a success, Ritzén had initially hoped at least 40 would participate. She suggests that preparing promotional materials and previews earlier would give organizers more time to communicate with cinemas, and hopefully get more theaters involved.

Potential solutions

Cinemas and audiences could also be made more aware of the initiative through additional satellite EACD events throughout Europe. Promotional strategies such as cooperating with culture and TV magazines like ARTE or naming a Swedish film ambassador might also create anticipation for the event. Ritzén also wonders whether taking a more political direction might draw in larger crowds – audiences may be more drawn to films that respond more to European political discourse rather than films ‘for a nice day’. Future EACD programs might benefit from a tighter selection of politically driven films.

Not Sweden's last

The first EACD in Sweden, lead by Gisela Ritzén and with the precious help of the national network Riksföreningen Biograferna, was a mission to get more involved with European and International partnerships like the CICAE, and connect the Swedish cinema scene globally. After this exciting beginning, Swedish participation in European Arthouse Cinema Day will only continue to grow – and our conversation with Gisela Ritzén has pointed the way forward.


Profilphoto Thea Jessamyn Voyles

Thea Jessamyn Voyles

Thea Jessamyn Voyles is an art writer and curator living in New York. She holds a BA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she wrote about mid-century romantic comedies and the implications of exhibition space. Thea also works for a contemporary art gallery, organises exhibitions of emerging artists, and hosts a fashion podcast. more from the author

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