Stefan Jarl (b. 1941)

Stefan Jarl is one of the most important and influential documentarists in contemporary Swedish cinema. Stefan Jarl was born in 1941 in Skara. From a left-wing perspective, he has highlighted social and environmental problems. Jarl has promoted the documentary as an art form, and from 1995 to 2005 he was curator of the ‘Little film festival’ in Båstad, Sweden.

2020.03.11 | Lars Gustaf Andersson

A portrait photo of the Swedish documentarists Stefan Jarl.

Stefan Jarl in 2013. Photo: Mikael Ringlander. Wikimedia Commons CC BY, Public Domain.

Jarl’s first film was Dom kallar oss mods (1968) (They Call Us Misfits), which he co-directed with Jan Lindqvist. The film became the first part of the ‘Mods Trilogy’, which also includes Ett anständigt liv (1979) (A Respectable Life) and Det sociala arvet (1993) (Generation to Generation). The trilogy depicts the misfits and outcasts of modern Sweden. Other films are Naturens hämnd (1983) (Nature’s Revenge), and the fiction film Jag är din krigare (1997) (Nature’s Warrior). In two documentaries he has portrayed two important contemporary Swedish artists and friends of his, the filmmaker Bo Widerberg and the actor Thommy Berggren: Liv till varje pris: en film om Bo Widerberg (1998) (Life at any cost: A film about Bo Widerberg) and Muraren: Ett porträtt av skådespelaren Thommy Berggren (2002) (The bricklayer: A portrayal of the actor Thommy Berggren). Following the riots in Gothenburg in 2001 in connection with the EU summit, Jarl directed (with Lucas Moodysson) Terrorister – en film om dom dömda (2003) (Terrorists: The Kids They Sentenced). During the later part of his career he has turned into more of a fiction filmmaker. Notable feature films are  Godheten (2013) (Decency) and Innan vintern kommer  (2018)(End of the Day). Jarl has received a number of awards for his work.

Further reading:

  • Tytti Soila, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, and Gunter Iversen, Nordic National Cinemas (London: Routledge, 1998).