Freddy Olsson has been Programmer of the Göteborg Film Festival (GIFF) in Gothenburg, Sweden since the mid-1980’s. Photos: Duhok IFF/Rudaw
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – Freddy Olsson, Producer and Programmer for the largest film festival in Scandinavia was first invited to the Duhok International Film Festival (IFF) to serve as a jury member three years ago but has been coming back as a guest ever since.
“I fell in love with the country and the people here so I’m back,” he told Rudaw English.
Olsson has over 30 years of experience in the film industry in many different forms, but has been Programmer of the Göteborg Film Festival (GIFF) in Gothenburg, Sweden since the mid-1980’s, which attracts more than 200,000 guests from around the globe annually.
Olsson, who is well known at the Duhok IFF for wearing traditional Kurdish clothing and carrying around a stuffed red dragon, said he believes it’s important to have a connection with the Kurdish people.
“In Scandinavia there are a lot of Kurdish people,” he said. “They are very strong in the cultural sector. There are musicians, filmmakers, poets, a lot of good Kurdish artists in Sweden.”
He explained that for the last two years he’s visited the Kurdistan Region specifically to watch Kurdish films at the Dohuk IFF.
Throughout the year Olsson said that if he screens films that he believes would be good for the Kurdistan Region, he suggests them to Shamal Sabri, the Artistic Director of the Duhok IFF, and other programmers.
Olsson mentioned that this year at the Duhok IFF in the main competition for World Cinema, there would be a screening of the Swedish film called ‘Sami Blood’, which has already been nominated for 10 awards and won 15 more worldwide.
The film ‘Sami Blood’ is about the Sami people [known in English as the Lapps or Laplanders], the only indigenous people in Scandinavia and the discrimination they faced in the 1930’s such as not being allowed to speak the Sami language in Swedish schools.
“I thought this film had a big relevance for the Kurdish people and how they have been treated in some countries,” Olsson said.
Although the Duhok IFF is relatively new being only in its fifth year, the GIFF has been in existence annually since 1979.
Olsson said he’s seen improvements at the Duhok IFF over the past three years and hopes to see it continue to grow.
“You know people from Europe are a bit afraid to come here [to the Kurdistan Region],” he said. “But I really hope we can have an even stronger presence of filmmakers and other people in the industry here. The connection between the Kurdish film industry which is just starting and the rest of the world is very important.”
Olsson said that he hopes that the upcoming Kurdistan referendum for independence will help to unite the Kurdish people.
“I have no doubts that people will vote ‘yes’ in the referendum,” he said. “The referendum is a good way to unite the Kurdish people but it’s a long way ahead to get the international community to accept that.”
He also believes the referendum will help create improvements in the Kurdistan Region in the future.
Apart from Germany with its sizable Kurdish community, Sweden is home to the largest Kurdish diaspora population.
With over 100,000 Kurds living in the country, Sweden’s Kurds have been able to establish themselves both politically and in the labor market. As of 2017, six Kurdish lawmakers are currently serving in the Swedish Riksdag (legislature) and dozens of others have high positions in the municipalities across the country.
“But I try to be a bit of an ambassador for Kurdistan,” Olsson added. “We need to learn about this region and you need to learn from us. A mutual interest.”