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After 15 years, Swede Fest makes its final goodbye at the Tower Theatre

The+Tower+Theatre+hosts+a+variety+a+different+shows+ranging+from+live+performances+to+movie+screenings.
Wyatt Bible/The Collegian
The Tower Theatre hosts a variety a different shows ranging from live performances to movie screenings.

Swede Fest, which began as an idea between two filmmakers after watching Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind Rewind,” has ended. Over 400 Fresno film lovers came together Nov. 17 at the Tower Theatre to watch more than 40 submitted films for the final 15th annual Swede Fest.

In 2008, Jack Black and Mos Def starred together in buddy-comedy movie, “Be Kind Rewind,” a story that entailed two video store employees who had to recreate every movie on the shelves in low-budget, homemade versions after Jerry (Black) erases all of the tapes due to a mishap at the power station.

During a banter with a customer, Jerry fabricates the term “swede” referring to the low-budget version of a film they sold to them, joking that the film came from Sweden and that it’s shot differently from the original.

Thus, the film-related term “swede,” was born.

15 years ago, co-founders Roque Rodriguez and Bryan Harley dedicated themselves to bringing together the film community of Fresno.

“When [‘Be Kind Rewind’] came out, we were like, ‘Let’s see what we can do to help invigorate the filmmaking community,’” Rodriguez said. “We realized there’s not much of a filmmaking community in Fresno, so this is a simple, low barrier entry for people to just remake movies with their families and have fun with it.”

Attendees were filled with bittersweetness when they heard that they were participating in the last Swede Fest. Guests were both excited to see new submissions and saddened to hear that this screening would be its finale.

“We really had a good time last year, seeing just the creativity that goes into it and laughing out loud at how they reproduce otherwise irreproducible film scenes using stone knives and bearskins basically,” said attendee Timothy Savage. “I don’t know if this means they’re not doing [Swede Fest] again but if not, then it’s going to be extra special being here.”

Before screening, Rodriguez and Harley treated attendees with a special “I’m Just Swede” video, a play on the “I’m Just Ken,” musical scene from “Barbie.”

The two, along with others, sang and danced as a montage of fan-favorite swede films from past festival submissions played on the screen. The stars of the show even came out on stage and danced along with the video before introducing the submissions.

There was something about the utilization of handmade props, local location shots and handheld equipment that added a special touch to each submitted swede film.

The festival received 40 swede film submissions, ranging from local high school students all the way to submissions from South Korea and the United Kingdom.

The submitted swedes ranged from older movies such as “Alien” and “Rocky” to newer films like “Skinamarink.”

Each submission was a clear demonstration that with creativity and dedication, anyone can become a filmmaker.

Once the festival ended and the theater was filled with applause, attendee Estaban Ibarra shared his biggest takeaway from the festival’s finale.

“It brings people together, like-minded people where you realize ‘Oh, it’s not just me.’ It’s a whole crowd of people that resonate with [Swede Fest], so that was awesome,” Ibarra said.

As Swede Fest comes to an end, opportunities for a new film screening event in Fresno are hopeful for Kyle Lowe, an operations manager for CMAC, a media-based non-profit organization in Fresno and one of the sponsors for Swede Fest.

“I’m really excited to see what Bryan and Roque put together in the future, but this also inspires people to create things,” Lowe said. “While it is expensive to put on an event in Tower Theatre, I think there’s plenty of opportunities for grassroots screenings or creative collaboration amongst folks in Fresno who want to get together and make something cool.”

To watch the full list of submitted swede films, click here.

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