The River, My Friend

The Lule River flows through a part of Sweden that has been pop­u­lat­ed pri­mar­i­ly by the Sami people for thou­sands of years. The 15 dams that make indus­tri­al use of the Lule pos­si­ble today are owned by the state energy com­pa­ny Vat­ten­fall. In order to build these dams, many Sami, who tra­di­tion­al­ly live from rein­deer herd­ing, were forcibly reset­tled. This is a story of loss: with the reset­tle­ment, more and more ances­tral Sami cus­toms have dis­ap­peared. What remains is their deep emo­tion­al bond with water, as shown in ÄLVEN MIN VÄN, which is a por­trait of four Sami women. “Every day, the river flows through me, look­ing for mem­o­ries,” says sto­ry­book writer Eva Stina San­dling. In won­der­ful images, direc­tor Hannah Ambühl cap­tures these mem­o­ries and the deep con­nec­tion of the women with the Lule River. At the same time, the film doc­u­ments the women’s chang­ing lives and tra­di­tions, as well as their last­ing feel­ings of belong­ing to Sami culture. 

The Lovers of San Fernando

For nearly twenty years film­mak­er Peter Tor­biörns­son fol­lowed Tinoco and Ninos­ka, an ordi­nary Nicaraguan couple, through the trials of day-to-day life in Nicaragua during a period gov­erned by rad­i­cal eco­nom­ic and social changes. The film presents a charm­ing, yet at the same time moving por­trait of a coun­try where the hope of rev­o­lu­tion has dete­ri­o­rat­ed into futil­i­ty and cor­rup­tion and suc­cumb to a vision­ary “Amer­i­can dream”.

The unusu­al­ly long time span, togeth­er with the out­stand­ing pro­fi­cien­cy of the direc­tor account for the over­all suc­cess of the film. The two main fig­ures Tinoco, from the coast of Nicaragua, and Ninos­ka, from a small moun­tain vil­lage, move so nat­u­ral­ly on the screen that they are able to effort­less­ly char­ac­ter­ize com­plex per­son­al and nation­al real­i­ties. Through its depic­tion of every­day life during uncer­tain times this story clear­ly shows how the char­ac­ters´ con­tin­u­al resis­tance against hard­ship and mis­for­tune have become a tes­ti­mo­ni­al to the courage of life - and the strength of love.


In 1974, the Swedish pho­tog­ra­ph­er and jour­nal­ist Mikael Wiström trav­elled across Peru. While he was taking pic­tures of a rub­bish dump where poor people were trying to eke out a meagre living, a young man whose body was deformed by polio asked him what he was doing with his expen­sive camera. Between this Daniel Bar­ri­en­tos and the pho­tog­ra­ph­er, a spe­cial yet vul­ner­a­ble friend­ship devel­oped. In 1991, Wiström has become a film­mak­er and returns to Peru for the first time, where Daniel and his wife and four chil­dren are still barely making ends. The film COMPADRE was made last year, almost thirty years after the first encounter between the two men. The film­mak­er not only doc­u­ments the daily life of Daniel’s family, but also involves the spec­ta­tor in this great dilem­ma of the rich West­ern film­mak­er being con­front­ed with dire pover­ty, an exis­ten­tial inequal­i­ty that puts great pres­sure on the friend­ship. Wiström may call Daniel his ‘broth­er’, but how far does his “fra­ter­nal” respon­si­bil­i­ty extend? 


Do you love me?” Daniel asks his wife Nati, who is busy pack­ing her suit­cas­es. They have lived togeth­er for 34 years. Soon they will be sep­a­rat­ed by a seem­ing­ly end­less ocean. Nati is leav­ing Peru to go to Spain to earn money for her family. Although Daniel goes to Lima every day to make a living with his moto­taxi, this is not enough to send their little boy to school. FAMILIA is the third and last part of Mikael Wiström’s doc­u­men­tary film project devot­ed to the Bar­ri­en­tos family from Lima, Peru’s cap­i­tal. Wiström met Daniel Bar­ri­en­tos in 1974. At the time, Daniel was work­ing with his wife in a rub­bish dump in the slums, col­lect­ing what­ev­er could be recy­cled. In FAMILIA, Wiström focus­es on Nati, who is strug­gling to get her family ahead as a cham­ber­maid in a hotel in Spain, thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away from her hus­band, daugh­ter and son. With inti­ma­cy and empa­thy, FAMILIA tells a pri­vate family story full of emo­tions, dif­fi­cul­ties and strug­gles that is also a global story about migration. 

Zigeuner sein

In the Romani lan­guage, Roma means “people.” This film lends a voice to these people, who tell of how they were arrest­ed and locked up in camps and pris­ons, and how 90 per­cent of their fam­i­lies never returned from the death camps. They speak in dialects from Bur­gen­land, Bavaria and Saxony. They live in des­o­late bar­racks on the fringes of cities, where ten people share a room with damp walls. The chil­dren are sick all winter long. Peter Nestler adds more facts with his dark low voice. A camp employ­ee describes his visit to the “gypsy camp” in Birke­nau, which shocks even him (despite his “thick skin”). At the end of the film, a woman wisely and pre­cise­ly sums up all the injus­tice done to these people: It isn’t that they haven’t let them­selves be assim­i­lat­ed in 600 years – no, they haven’t been allowed to be assim­i­lat­ed, up to this very day. Peter Nestler doesn’t try to water this down, either in nar­ra­tive or film. His mile­stone doc­u­men­tary is not only straight­for­ward, but the first to bear wit­ness to the per­se­cu­tion of Sinti and Roma in Ger­many and Austria.