The 2006 Filmfest Hamburg press conference (PC) was on September 20 by invitation only. It attracted many journalists who would cover the festival events. After a workout climb of 100 stairs we gathered in the cozy, upper room of the “Nachtasyl” bar above the Thalia Theatre. Festival Programmer, Kathrin Kohlstedde, greeted our KinoCritics team with enthusiasm. She said that we would be happy to know that there would be lots of films in English this year. After our squeals died down, she invited us to the bar for appetizers and drinks. We grabbed our nourishment and found the perfect leather sofa to make ourselves comfortable. The room was full of energy as the festival team scurried around pulling the last minute details together for their presentation. They were eager to present their game plan, hopeful that their hard work would pay off.
Herr Albert Wiederspiel opened the PC by showing the Filmfest trailer, which thereafter would appear in different venues in the city. The remainder of the session was devoted to presenting the festival stats and speeches by each film category overseer. The directors had the opportunity to personally share what they had been working on for the past year and what they were bringing to the festival table. They were excited!
They were shooting so much information at us that I could hardly write it down fast enough: that the opening evening would feature the German film Ein Freund von Mir followed by a party at the Alsterhaus funded by the Film festival sponsors; that we could see a total of 131 films including seven features specifically made for children; the number of different countries represented. The information poured out of him.
Herr Wiederspiel was proud of the fact that there would be 13 films from Israel. There was a strong representation from the USA. We would not see many films from Africa because their film market is on a two-year cycle – next year there will be more African films. The award categories would be: the Hamburg Critics Award; EUR 10,000 Otto Sprenger Award; EUR 30,000 TV Award; EUR 5,000 Audience Award and EUR 2,500 Children’s film Award. The Douglas Sirk Award would go to French actor Gerard Depardieu who was coming to Hamburg personally to receive the award. Wiederspiel was excited to let this secret out of the bag.
Observing the eagerness of the Festival team to get on with the show, I was reminded of the scene in Ron Howard’s film Apollo 13, when the Saturn V was ready for flight. The mission flight controller, played by Ed Harris, communicated with his team in a verbal roll call. He quickly identified whether all systems were go for take off. Harris went down the roll and asked every technical overseer if their system was up and running. They answered with the words “Go Flight.” In my opinion, it is one of the best examples of team spirit on film. As I sat in the “control room” of the Filmfest Hamburg, I had the feeling that the festival team was reporting to Herr Wiederspiel, “We’re good to go, Flight!”