All-star music festivals are a dime a dozen every summer — as, for that matter, are film festivals, at any time of year. Festivals that mix the two, however, are still relatively thin on the ground. The US, famously, has South by Southwest in the spring, and for the last three years, the Swedes have taken a leaf from their playbook (right down to the hat-tipping name) with the Way Out West fest, which takes place this year in Gothenberg on the weekend of August 8 to 10.
Of course, the Swedish festival is a more compact affair, and one whose film programme is more concerned with cherry-picking aims at the non-festival-going public than world premieres — with a music documentary sidebar that makes perfect sense for this crowd. Way Out West began seven years ago solely as a music festival; the film programme was added three years ago. I met Svante Tidholm, their dynamic film programme director, in Cannes, and while he admits the festival’s still growing up, he’s determined to make it a more prominent stop on the European circuit.
For now, it’s a nice opportunity for a number of 2013’s best films — most of which will be new to Scandinavian audiences — to be showcased in an alternative environment, sharing space on the bill with pop and rock royalty. Fancy chilling out after Neil Young’s set with a screening of “Before Midnight?” Or warming up for Alicia Keys with the very different New York spirit of “Frances Ha?” Here’s your chance.
Aside from Young and Keys, headlining music acts at the festival include Azealia Banks, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel and Cat Power. The high-profile films, meanwhile, also include Steven Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra” (remember, it’s being treated as a theatrical feature throughout Europe), Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster,” Zal Batmanglij’s “The East,” James Franco’s Sundance provocation “Interior. Leather Bar.,” Berlinale Audience Award winner “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Xan Cassavetes’ vampire film “Kiss of the Damned,” and well as the world premiere of Swedish film “Easy Money: Life Deluxe,” the third instalment in a hit franchise that is already being retooled by Hollywood with Zac Efron.
The documentary lineup, meanwhile, is headlined by the year’s most beloved music doc so far, “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” with Peaches’ outrageous performance piece “Peaches Does Herself,” Shane Meadows’s first foray into rock-doc territory “The Stone Roses: Made of Stone,” “Reincarnated: Snoop Lion” among the others in the mix. Something for everyone, essentially.
Tidholm says of the film lineup: “The films we premiered last year went on to become the most successful Scandinavian films of the year. This year we’re aiming even higher, with more international films, more Swedish, European and World premieres as well as more international talent.”
The full lineup is here, and all in all, I can think of far less pleasant ways to spend a weekend — if you can swing the trip to Sweden, of course. But it’s good to see a festival mixing up the formula a bit; I’m interested to see how they grow.