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American Women's Club of Hamburg

The 26th Filmfest Hamburg

The Filmfest Hamburg gets better every year, as we witnessed this time, September 27 to October 6. Many were in English or had English subtitles, which is especially helpful for our viewers. Sixty percent were European films, while the rest came from all around the world. The aim of a festival is to present new films, of which, this year, probably only 30 will ever appear main stream in German cinemas. Here, six films were new worldwide and 120 were new to Germany. Some had shown at other festivals, such as Cannes, Locarno, Sundance, and Venice. (See page….. for statistics.)

This year a new section called Große Freiheit, which featured German films, was added to make a total of 12 sections, including, naturally, the children’s film festival: the Michel Kinder und Jugend Filmfest Hamburg. A total of 125,000 euros were awarded to 11 winners, including a new award for a German film production. There were 36 directors present who could rely on previous experience with the Filmfest Hamburg, while 29 novice directors came to introduce their very first films.

There were meet-ups, interviews, and discussions in categories called Klappe Auf or Unzensiert. Naturally, they were parallel to films being shown so it was not always possible to see many. Luckily, TIDE TV station filmed all of these discussions and you can enjoy them (many in English) under www.Tidenet.de. See Filmfest Hamburg events on the left of the first page and click.

Festival director Albert Wiederspiel was proud to announce that attendance increased this year, with about 43,000 people in the cinemas. At the beginning of the festival he said that his motto is “Wehret den Anfängen” which we can translate to “nip it in the bud.” In this case what must be nipped before it “gets out of hand” is a trend for cinemas to go out of style, to become “museums.”  He intends, with the help of the Filmfest, to keep cinema alive, offering the best possible films available to the general public (something which not all festivals manage to do, e.g., Cannes which does not always welcome the general public). Hamburg faces a huge challenge, considering that there are 400 film festivals annually, in Germany alone.  

The festival will probably continue on its good path, as Albert Wiederspiel’s contract has been renewed for another five years until 2023, at which time he will have been the festival director for 20 years. He tries to keep the number of films shown under 140 (contrary to the Berlinale which goes for almost 400) so that “we can keep track of them.” Wiederspiel believes that films “should be political. They can’t solve problems, but they can point out grievances, better and more effectively than any other art form.” He wants to direct our attention to the state of the world. This year the festival featured DREI GESICHTER by Jafar Panahhi, who is not allowed to make films (although he secretly made this one) nor leave his home country, Iran. We saw LETO by Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov who also may not leave the country, nor make films. (See page…..) The festival has dropped the custom of presenting guest directors with flowers or chocolate. Instead, guests receive a confirmation that money has been donated in their name to the family of film director Oleg Senzow who is serving 20 years in prison for demonstrating against politics in his home country, Ukraine.

We can look forward to the 27th Filmfest Hamburg, September 26 to October 5, not only because the city of Hamburg has agreed to raise financial support by another 130,000 euros – which is still much less than other festivals, such as Munich, receive. Suggestion: Herr Wiederspiel should ask one of us to be on a jury this next time!

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