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Palm Beach’s Swedefest profiles best in amateur, low-budget filmmaking


Big budget movies make the impossible look real. Swedes are ultra, ultra low-budget movies that are impossibly — and lovingly — cheesy-looking.

Thus is the charm of Swedefest, the local film festival now in its fourth year of celebrating the art of turning blockbuster productions into homemade works that proudly display not only their creators’ complete lack of budget and, perhaps, actual filmmaking skill, but also a lot of love.

“It takes a ton of imagination to produce something this awful,” enthuses Elizabeth Dashiell, a local public relations specialist, film school graduate and co-president of the Palm Beach Film Society, who this year became the organizer of Swedefest.

The story behind the festival goes back to a cult favorite film called “Be Kind, Rewind” where goofy video store employees played by Jack Black and Mos Def inadvertently destroy the establishment’s videotapes and find themselves producing their own low-budget versions, which they claim were made in Sweden.

A group of fans in California brought the concept to life with their own short, handmade films, nicknamed Swedes, and the idea caught on around the country, including here in Palm Beach County.

“It was a super, super cool event” at the Borland Center at Midtown at the Gardens in Palm Beach Gardens, Dashiell says, until the then-organizers were unable to put it on this year. Undeterred, Dashiell and others decided that the concept was too, well, super cool to die, and took it over.

“I decided that it was exactly a part of our mission at the Film Society,” she says. “It celebrates and supports the local filmmaker, although it really can be just anyone with a recording device that wants to make fun of Hollywood. You have students and creative types, and then those you’d never guess like lawyers and accountants. Some are light to nonexistent on the props, and some people go over the top.”

Dashiell says she found the perfect venue with the Palm Beach International Film Festival, which took over the former Plaza Theatre space in Manalapan, because it’s a focus on locals.

“First and foremost, it’s wacky and fun, using modern technology. Some are literally made on mobile phones. You can do a lot with a little imagination and no money,” she says.

This year’s films include takes on “Aliens,” “Into The Woods,” “The Sound of Music” and more.

Nick Crisafi, of Jupiter, a veteran Sweder, won the festival with a version of “Back To The Future” that he and his children made. This year, both he and his wife were very busy, so he left it to the kids.

“I told them ‘If you wanna enter this year, do it by yourself.’ So they took the iPad, went to our backyard and did ‘Into The Woods,’ a film they enjoyed,” he says. “I helped them a little bit with the credits, but I was very impressed.”

IF YOU GO

SWEDEFEST

Where: The fourth annual festival takes place Saturday at the Palm Beaches Theatre, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan.

When: Red carpet arrivals at 6:30 p.m.; screenings begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: available in advance at Eventbrite.com for $12.65, or $15 cash-only at door that night.

Information: Swedefestpalmbeach.com


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