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Stefan Jarl was born in Skara (southern Sweden). He was a disciple of the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff and later on production manager for Stig Björkman, Öyvind Fahlström, Mai Zetterling and Bo Widerberg. "Sweden has not had a documaker to match Jarl since the days of the great Arne Sucksdorff. Whether dealing with drug addicts or people living in the countryside, Jarl's films have been both hard hitting and lyrical, with a finished feel reflecting the long time spent in post-production." /Variety-Stefan Jarl started...

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Biography

Stefan Jarl was born in Skara (southern Sweden). He was a disciple of the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff and later on production manager for Stig Björkman, Öyvind Fahlström, Mai Zetterling and Bo Widerberg.

"Sweden has not had a documaker to match Jarl since the days of the great Arne Sucksdorff. Whether dealing with drug addicts or people living in the countryside, Jarl's films have been both hard hitting and lyrical, with a finished feel reflecting the long time spent in post-production." /Variety

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Stefan Jarl started his career as a teenage errand boy for Arne Sucksdorff, Sweden's best-known documentary filmmaker of the day, who became one of the most important people in the young man's life. As the years went by, Jarl himself became one of Sweden's most successful documentary makers. He is nothing if not persistent, with an ability to convey and to arouse in his audience a deep involvement in issues that he regards as society's failings.

In 1965, having gained experience with Sucksdorff, Jarl won a place at the film school which had been started the year before by the Swedish Film Institute. He applied for the course in production management, having guessed that he would have a better chance of being accepted that if he had applied for the directing course.

At the school he met Jan Lindqvist who was studying directing. The two of them were commissioned to make some short documentaries and reports for television, but were dissatisfied at the television editing of their work. Jarl and Lindqvist decided to go ahead with a film for cinema. They Call Us Misfits (Dom kallar oss mods, 1968) was made for less than SEK 90,000 and featured two people, Kenta and Stoffe, who the filmmakers had met when they were investigating conditions for young people in Stockholm.

With its focus on the difficult circumstances of the young people in question and the way they tried to take revenge on society and the nine-to-fivers they despised through a life of drugs and alcohol abuse, the film was a success with audiences and critics alike. The latter pointed out that whilst it was easy to see stylistic faults in the film, the feeling of authenticity in the images was overwhelming. It was something new. It drew attention to young people in a way that no film about young people on the fringes of society had ever done before.

Dom kallar oss mods has in many ways remained a typical Stefan Jarl-film. He continues to be the filmmaker who raises the alarm. He remained in contact with Kenta and Stoffe and went on to make A Respectable Life (Ett anständigt liv, 1979) and Det sociala arvet ('The Social Heritage', 1993) to round off what has become known as his "Mods Trilogy". With more than 300,000 viewers at Swedish cinemas Ett anständigt liv remains one of the most successful Swedish documentaries.

A desire to teach people and to stir them up can be discerned in Jarl's filmography: having made a name for himself as a portrayer of social ills, in his later career he has often portrayed nature and how we poison it and ourselves. He has given us portraits of people who have fascinated and inspired him, from the likes of Bo Widerberg to the journalist and Auschwitz survivor Cordelia Edvardson and the discus thrower Ricky Bruch.

He has also used his drive and energy to influence politicians and the management of the Swedish Film Institute to get a better deal for film in general and documentaries in particular. To the same end, he was a founding member of the collective distribution organisations Filmcentrum (1968) and Folkets Bio (1973). A spell as artistic director of the Little Film Festival in Båstad and a project such as co-directing Terrorists: The Kids They Sentenced (Terrorister, 2003) with Lukas Moodysson are other examples of Stefan Jarl's fondness for working together with others.

Controversial as a filmmaker, Jarl himself is also a combative character. He does not shy away from staging scenes in his documentaries. In Ett anständigt liv, for example, Kenta can be seen at one point scrubbing away blood in his mother's flat after she has stabbed her boyfriend. It is a staged scene, with blood bought from an abattoir, since Kenta had already cleaned up the flat beforehand. Jarl has defended this ploy with characteristic tenacity:

"That problem doesn't interest me. /---/ When we shot the scene Kenta was thrown back into the original experience. /---/ That's how the scene got its authenticity. Authenticity is important to me, not whether it's staged or not", as he himself puts it in "Stefan Jarl - en intervjubok" by Cyril Hellman (published by Kartago, 2008).

Mårten Blomkvist (2013)

(translated by Derek Jones)

 

Awards

SFF's Glas Statuette (Sweden) Stockholm 2007 samt 10 000 kr
Nordic Audience Award (GP & Göteborg Film Festival) Göteborg 2002 Muraren : Ett porträtt av skådespelaren Thommy Berggren (200.000 kr och statyetten Filmräven)
Prize Stockholm 1999 (IOGT-NTO:s Ture Nermans pris; 15.000 kr))
Skaraborg 1998 (årets stipedium från Skaraborgs läns landsting; 38.000 kr)
Festival Award Giffoni 1997 Jag är din krigare (bästa regi)
The Guldbagge Award Stockholm 1990 Creative Achievement
Prize Stockholm 1983 (filmbranschens pris)
The Guldbagge Award Stockholm 1979 Best Director Ett anständigt liv
Chaplin Magazine Award Stockholm 1968 Dom kallar oss mods

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