The festival was conceived in 1990 by three local film enthusiasts – Ignas Scheynius, Git Scheynius and Kim Klein. They organized the first edition with the assistance of a small group of film industry professionals and about 200 volunteers. The inaugural Stockholm International Film Festival opened with David Lynch’s black comedy crime thriller Wild at Heart. During the four-day festival, a total of 45 films were screened. Over the years, the program has expanded to include more than 200 films from 60 countries (as of 2014).
The Stockholm International Film Festival has been accredited as a competitive specialized film festival by FIAPF, it focuses on avant-garde cinema. The grand prix of the festival is the Bronze Horse prize. It is awarded to the best feature film and the best documentary. The prize is a 7.3 kg statuette that portrays a Dalecarlian horse, the symbol of Sweden. It’s the world’s heaviest film festival prize. Two more Bronze Horses are given to winners of the Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award (inaugurated in 1990) and Stockholm Visionary Award (inaugurated in 2004).
The “younger sister” of the main prize is called the Aluminum Horse. It is presented in several categories such as best screenplay, best cinematography, best actor, best actress, best first feature film, and best short film. The categories might change from year to year. There also are several special prizes including the Audience Award (given out according to the results of an audience vote), the Rising Star prize awarded to a promising young actor, and the FIPRESCI Award given out by the International Federation of Film Critics.
Along with competition screenings of feature films, shorts and documentaries, the program of the festival features non-competitive sections such as Stockholm Impact, Open Zone, American Independents, Icons, Discovery, Twilight Zone, Documania, Spotlights, etc. The program also includes Q&A sessions with directors and actors (nicknamed Face2Face), workshops, discussions and other events dedicated to the art of cinema. There’s even a special program aimed at students from Stockholm.