Swede Fest Brings “Bad Movies By Good People” to Palm Beach

There are low-budget movies, and then there are, as Elizabeth Dashiell puts it, “no-budget movies.” The sort where, if you’re shooting a penniless remake of “Mary Poppins” and you don’t have access to a carousel, transform oven mitts into the whimsical equines. Or if you’re reimagining “Titanic,” who needs a cruise liner? A shopping cart can be the ship, and through the magic of cinematography, a piece of square gum can be the iceberg.

Dashiell is the organizer of this weekend’s Swede Fest Palm Beach in Lake Park, which, for six years, has invited anyone with a camera and some imagination to create a three-minute parody of a Hollywood film—sometimes a single scene, other times the entire film, still others a hybrid or mash-up. The more economical, the better. For her own “swede” this year, Dashiell paid her actors in pizza.

The shining

“Somebody else got their whole family involved and redid ‘The Shining,’” she says. “You’ll often see location shoots in someone’s house. For some, they did it in an hour, and for some they took days. You’ll see some with super-high production values—great audio and video—and yet it has been deliberately made to look low budget. It takes a lot of creativity to be this awful.”

The concept of a “swede”—a playful, self-reflexive parody strung together with glue and string—owes its origins to Michel Gondry’s otherwise forgotten 2008 comedy “Be Kind Rewind,” in which a video store employee and his crazy friend (Mos Def and Jack Black, respectively), having supernaturally erased the content on their entire stock of VHS tapes, shoddily remake blockbusters for unsuspecting renters and thus spark a movement. That movement spread well beyond the characters in Gondry’s movie, with real-life, trademarked Swede Fests sprouting up in Fresno, Tampa Bay and then Palm Beach.

Other than the three-minute duration, and the desire to keep the movies family-friendly, no rules are imposed. In addition to the aforementioned titles, this year’s Swede Fest entries include live-action versions of animated features “Frozen,” “Moana” and “Finding Nemo;” threadbare versions of “Doctor Strange” and “Captain America;” a sock-puppet rendition of “Romeo and Juliet;” laughable swipes at horror flicks “The Blair Witch Project” and “Annabelle;” and many others. One film artist took the sci-fi cult classic “Cube” into a completely new direction.

"Annabelle," sweded
“Annabelle,” sweded

Jacek Gancarz embarked on an especially ambitious project for his 2018 swede: a parody of the recent Oscar ceremony, in which he restages the Best Actress award segment—both the five clips of the nominated actress, and the awards pageantry itself, with a tinfoil-wrapped Barbie standing in for the Oscar statuette. For Margot Robbie’s clip of “I, Tonya,” Gancarz says, “A friend offered hockey skates, but then I said, let’s take it one step further, and we used roller blades. It was a lot of makeup and a lot of crying.” One actor played all five nominated women, and Gancarz stepped in front of the camera for a few roles, including the Laurie Metcalf part in “Lady Bird.”

“For people who love movies, this is totally for them,” Dashiell says. “For people who have a silly sense of humor, this is for them. But what I really like is that it’s one giant game of make-believe. When you’re kids, you like to re-enact these movies—tie a blanket around your neck and pretend you’re Superman. You’ll see adults doing that onscreen.”

Dashiell's "Every Space Movie Ever Made"
Dashiell’s “Every Space Movie Ever Made”

Dashiell has coordinated Swede Fest from the beginning, but this year she finally decided to make her own swede, and promptly broke the rules: Hers runs nine minutes, but it’s not in competition, and it will run in segments in between batches of competing titles. It’s one of the most unconventional swedes yet, a mega-parody called “Every Space Movie Ever Made,” a treasure trove of references ranging from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Star Wars” to “Logan’s Run” and “The Last Starfighter.”

“I thought my script was funny, but it’s not necessarily the script,” Dashiell says. “It’s the magic that happens when the camera starts rolling.”

Swede Fest 6 begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Kelsey Theater, 700 Park Ave., Lake Park. Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Visit swedefestpalmbeach.com.