The Cinema Of The People (Folkets Bio) Is Socialist

Folkets Bio, “the Cinema of the People”, is a Swedish organization importing, distributing and screening films in local cinema salons. It was founded in 1973, on the initiative of among others the filmmaker Stefan Jarl, to provide screening opportunities for films made outside of the bigger studios. In the first paragraph of the statutes of the association Folkets Bio, the organization is described as a socialist cultural association not affiliated with any political party, or in Swedish: “partipolitiskt obunden socialistisk kulturförening”.

The use of the word ‘socialist’ in describing the character of Folkets Bio has recently come up for debate among the local member associations incorporated in Folkets Bio. For the annual meeting in 2012, the Västerås section proposed that the word ‘socialist’ should be stricken from the statutes. It is motivated by two thoughts:

One, that everybody should feel welcome to the cinemas, and that they, regardless of their political position, should feel free to air their opinions there.

“Om vi vill att alla ska känna sig välkomna till våra biografer så måste det också avspeglas i våra stadgar. Vi måste visa att vi är en öppen förening där det är högt i tak och där personer med olika politisk hemvist kan ventilera sina synpunkter.”

Two, when looking for funding for the cinemas, the possibility of finding corporate sponsors should be considered. Corporate sponsors might be turned off by the thought of sponsoring a socialist association.

“Vi ser oss om efter möjligheter att få sponsorer. De flesta företag läser noga stadgar innan de lämnar bidrag till en förening och att då vara en socialistisk kulturförening innebär att de flesta inte lämnar några bidrag.”

The proposal was supported by the national board of the association, who added that not only private, corporate sponsors found the word ‘socialist’ troublesome, but that also institutions which provide public funding have a problem with it.

In our view, though, the two points seem to contradict each other slightly: all associations are not free to air their opinions, unless they are willing to manage without corporate sponsorship.

In a recent article for Swedish art magazine Paletten, Henrik Andersson writes about the ideologies behind different institutions providing funding for the arts. For example, the state committee Kulturbryggan which aims at exploring “alternative and creative” forms of funding for arts, and which annually distributes 25 million Swedish Crowns to various art projects deemed to be of an especially innovative character. Among the alternative and creative new forms of funding, let’s mention the thought of the artist as entrepreneur, creating new markets for themselves where none previously existed, or entering into fruitful collaborations with corporate sponsors.

We decided to apply for funding for the Sunshine Socialist Cinema from Kulturbryggan, and in our application wrote that due to the name of our cinema containing the word ‘socialist’, it seems unlikely to us that we will get any funding from private, corporate sponsors, and that although we are not affiliated with any particular political party, the ideological charcter of our cinema might possibly also make it hard to receive public funding. The application to Kulturbryggan was a test, of sorts. We were surprised to be granted a large sum of money in order to develop a mobile version of our cinema, in order to be able to screen films at “outdoors events like for example demonstrations and manifestations”. The panel of experts that study all the applications for Kulturbryggan, and provide recommendations for approval or denial, consists of professional artists, not ideologues, who look at the artistic merit of the proposals rather than at their adherence to any specific ideological agenda. Nevertheless, there are directives provided for them. Quoting the website of Kulturbryggan (in Swedish):

I Kulturbryggans uppdrag ingår att ”sträva efter att etablera samverkan med andra finansiärer”. (Dir 2010:77). Regeringen ser det som avgörande att bidragsgivningen ger incitament till finansiering från flera parter. Därför har man i bidragsförordningen (xxx) 6 § skrivit in att ”Krav på finansiering även från annan part ska ställas som villkor för statsbidrag. Om det finns särskilda skäl, behöver dock sådant krav inte ställas, om bidrag ges för att påbörja en försöksverksamhet eller för att vidareutveckla en projektidé.”