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Ruesselheimer Filmtage 2017 - Satirische Kurzfilme
by Pat Frickey

The Rüsselsheimer Filmtage is a yearly film festival which prides itself on being the most important satirical short film festival in Germany. Even though a selection committee chooses the up to twenty films to be shown, it is the public who votes for the winners. Well-known past German prize winners include Thomas Stellmach, Carsten Strauch, Dietrich Brüggemann, and Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck.

The festival began in 1994 as a poignant memorial to a cinematic tragedy. On December 22, 1991, Cinema Concetta Filmteam Martin Kirchberger, Ralf Malwitz und Klaus Stieglitz were filming a satirical movie Bunkerlow aboard a vintage Douglas DC-3A when it crashed into the Hoher Nistler, a mountain near Heidelberg. Twenty-eight of the thirty-two aboard died in the crash, including the filmmakers.

In memory of the victims die Stiftung Cinema Concetta Filmförderung was established in 1992 to promote satirical short films in Rüsselsheim. From the ashes of a tragedy a people’s film festival has rooted and blossomed. The logo captures its spirit (not shown but described here below).

Scharfer Blick (critical eye), encircled within a wry smile.


Germany, 1993
Directed by: Martin Kirchberger
Writing Credits: Martin Kirchberger, Klaus Stieglitz
Finished by: Karin Malwitz, Renate Merck

Bunkerlow is a spoof on a Kaffeefahrt, a promotional trip where organizers put on the hard sell, in this case luxurious fallout shelters for the super-rich. While traditionally these trips are on busses or small boats, Bunkerlow takes place in a vintage airplane high in the clouds. The highlight of the film is when a bomb is dropped from the plane on the ground below, then out pops a reporter from a bunker, completely unharmed. The passengers aboard the plane succumb to the high pressure tactics of the salesman and eagerly start ordering their own luxury bunkers.

Bunkerlow (After the Crash)

The final scenes for Bunkerlow were being filmed aboard the Douglas DC-3A in winter. Plagued by foggy weather and perhaps distracted by the camera, the co-pilot during the filming crashed the plane into a mountain, and twenty-eight of the thirty-two people aboard, including the filmmakers, perished.

Most of Bunkerlow had already been shot on ground and the footage had been stored at the cinematographer Ralf Malwitz’s parents’ home. Miraculously his camera and film of the inflight scenes were found intact in the debris field. The cinematographer’s sister Karin Malwitz, who was studying filmmaking in Offenbach, was determined to finish the movie. With help of Renate Merck, Thomas Frickel, and other friends in Rüsselsheim they edited the film, and it was first presented in 1993 at the Hamburg NoBudget Festival (now renamed the Hamburg International Short Film Festival).

The audience was delighted with the eighteen minute film, and laughed during the credits which showed thirty-two names, twenty-eight followed by a cross † denoting deceased. They assumed this was part of the satire and the absurdity of the film. Karin Malwitz explained, though it was macabre, she was happy about the audiences’ reaction; those who had died in the crash would have appreciated it.