Ruben Östlund

Professor at The European Graduate School / EGS


Ruben Östlund (b. 1974 in Styrsö, Sweden, as Claes Olle Ruben Östlund) is a film director, screenwriter and, since 2014, Professor of Film at Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Named “the rugged adventurer of Swedish film”[1], Östlund began his career by directing three skiing films (Addicted, 1996; Free Radicals, 1997; and Free Radicals 2, 1998) before entering film school in Gothenburg. There, he met the producer Erik Hemmendorff and soon after his graduation in 2001 they founded the production company Plattform Produktion.

Östlund gained international recognition with his first feature film Gitarrmongot (The Guitar Mongoloid, 2004), combining three different storylines about “outsiders” in a fictional Swedish city. The first Swedish feature film shot on video, it won the FIPRESCI Prize at Moscow International Film Festival in 2005.

His next feature film, De ofrivilliga (Involuntary, 2008), relating five seemingly unrelated narratives, premiered at the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes Film Festival. It was selected (but not nominated) as Sweden’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2009 and won several awards, including a Golden Iris at Brussels European Film Festival, Best Director at Geneva International Film Festival – Tous Écrans, and the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film at Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Also Östlund’s short film Händelse vid bank (Incident by a Bank, 2010) about an attempted bank robbery, won him several prizes, including the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival, the Grand Prix at Tampere International Short Film Festival, and the Silver Dragon at Krakow Film Festival.

Östlund’s third feature Play (2011), portraying a group of five black boys scamming and robbing wealthier kids in Gothenburg, also premiered in Cannes, where it won the Coup de Coeur Award. It was awarded numerous prices elsewhere, including the Best Director Award at Tokyo International Film Festival and the Nordic Council’s Film Prize.

The subsequent comedy drama Turist (Force Majeure, 2014), which depicts a Swedish family on ski holiday in the French Alps, won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize in Cannes. Shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, Force Majeure was nominated for a Golden Globe and won numerous other awards including Best Screenplay from Seville European Film Festival, the TFCA Award from Toronto Film Critics Association Awards as well as several prizes from Guldbagge Awards.

Östlund’s latest feature film The Square (2017) won him the Palme d’Or in Cannes. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film as well as for a Golden Globe. In addition to numerous other awards, it won him a David at the David di Donatello Awards, several prizes at the European Film Awards and at the Guldbagge Awards, a Goya at the Goya Awards, a People’s Choice Award at Pingyao International Film Festival and an Eagle at Polish Film Awards. While the film is a satire about the Swedish cultural elite, “the cloistered, fundamental silliness of the contemporary art world is not Ruben Östlund’s target in The Square – that would be too easy. As with his previous films Play (2011) and Force Majeure (2014), Ostlund uses his setting to explore hidden inequalities in supposedly liberal societies, particularly those concerning masculinity, race and class, playing with our expectations about what is supposed to happen versus the results, which are always uncomfortable.”[2]

Other documentary shorts and feature shorts include Låt dom andra sköta kärleken (Let the Others Deal with Love, 2000), Familj igen (Family Again, 2002), and Scen nr: 6882 ur mitt liv (Autobiographical Scene Number 6882, 2005 ) and Nattbad (2006).

 At present, Östlund is working on the project Triangle of Sadness, a film about supermodels.

[1] Xan Brooks, “Ruben Östlund: ‘All my films are about people trying to avoid losing face” (Interview);

[2] Violet Lucca, “Film of the week: The Square artfully exposes hidden injustice”;