As It Happens

Film festival seeks fan to spend a week alone watching movies in a remote lighthouse

The Gothenburg Film Festival is looking for one dedicated cinephile to spend seven days watching movies alone on a remote lighthouse island.

The Gothenburg Film Festival experiment aims to explore how isolation changes our relationship to film

The Göteborg Film Festival, known in English as the Gothenburg Film Festival, is sending a contest winner to a remote Swedish island to watch its 60 premieres in a lighthouse. (Göteborg Film Festival)

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A Swedish film festival is looking for one dedicated cinephile to spend seven days watching movies alone in a remote lighthouse. 

The Göteborg Film Festival, known in English as the Gothenburg Film Festival, is taking applications from all over the world for its pandemic cinema experiment. 

The chosen candidate will be given a week's lodging at the historic Pater Noster lightkeeper's house on a small, rocky island off Sweden's west coast, as well as access to all the films on this year's festival roster. 

"They are totally isolated. They are not allowed to bring anyone, of course, but also no phone and not even a book," Jonas Holmberg, the festival's artistic director, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"So it will be only this person and the sea, the waves, the sky and the 60 different premieres that we are screening at the festival."

The Isolated Cinema

The contest is called The Isolated Cinema. Holmberg says it's inspired by the pandemic and how physical distancing and lockdown measures have affected the way people watch movies.

This year's festival will mostly be online — though limited tickets are being sold for solo screenings in a Swedish arena and a theatre, also in keeping with the theme of isolation. 

"People have watched so many films, and they are alone, and they turn to the films for company and also for comfort," Holmberg said.

"It's also starting to feel strange to watch films with other people touching each other, hugging and kissing strangers — all kinds of things that have changed the audience's relationship with the films.

"We want to take this to the extreme and put somebody out there."

Jonas Holmberg is the artistic director of the Gothenberg Film Festival. (Gothenberg Film Festival)

And by "out there" he means Hamneskär, a small, windswept island in the North Sea, home to the historic Pater Noster lighthouse, first built in 1868.

"It's quite remote. It's a very dramatic setting. It's just a small cliff, and then it's a very beautiful red lighthouse," Holmberg said. 

Interested film lovers can apply for the Isolated Cinema on the festival's website. The winning candidate will stay in the lightkeeper's house between Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, and watch movies inside the lighthouse itself, where the festival has installed a one-person cinema.

"This is a place that, for centuries, has been very important for Sweden's contact with the world, because it has been guiding ships to Göteborg Harbour, which has been the main contact hub between Sweden and the rest of the world for centuries. And the Pater Noster, this lighthouse, has been a part of that."

It will be lonely, of course, and it will be beautiful.- Jonas Holmberg, Gothernburg Film Festival artistic director

In the early 2000s, the lighthouse was restored, and the lightkeeper's house was converted into a small, luxury hotel, where the contest winner will stay. 

The hotel doesn't operate in the winter, Holmberg said, and only one staff member will be on site during the Isolated Cinema project for safety purposes. If everything goes according to plan, the winner and the staff member will never cross paths.

"They will have a very comfortable time there because they will have a soft bed, a warm room and very nice food and also some popcorn. It will not be difficult in that aspect," Holmberg said.

"But then, of course, it will be a very special experience to be all by itself for one week with no other communications and with only the film as company."

The winning candidate, Holmberg said, should be someone who truly loves films, doesn't mind being alone, and is willing to document their experience in the form of a video diary.

"It's crucial that this person is also willing to communicate and able to put words to this experience," Holmberg said.

"They will talk about how life is on the island and how these special conditions have affected the relationship to the films that they have seen."

Asked how he would feel about being isolated on a remote island with nothing but movies to keep him company, Holmberg said: "I would love to do it."

"I think for me it would be quite challenging to be alone and to be not able to contact my family and my friends and talk to people … but I would be interested in how this situation would affect me," he said.

"It will be lonely, of course, and it will be beautiful. It will be cold as long as you're outside. But you can always go inside and watch yet another movie."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. 

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