"Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump’s mama could’ve been referring to how film festivals are “full of surprises.” Whether someone reaches for another can depend on the flavor; on the other hand, some chocolate manufacturers list contents on the box. Which gave me the idea: why not list a few of my favorite things about 2019 KurzFilm Festival Hamburg. Naturally, Mo & Friese KinderFilmFestival films are included.
1- Atmosphere: Imagine having a circus and Exploratorium combined! That anticipation, excitement, curiosity, wonderment and honest-to-goodness entertainment, wrapped in unabridged friendliness with a party-wide bow describes KurzFilm Festival best.
2- Good Film Programs: My favorite program was Labor der Gegenwart IV – Hamburg Positions – The Organic City. Favorites within that category were THE WHOLE TO AND FRO (Das Ganze Hin und Her) by local documentarian Ulrich Gehner · 2019 · 19:48 minutes, color: An outstanding exposé concerning the St. Georg neighborhood’s current local politicians’ shenanigans regarding a public swing. And, THE NAKED MORNING (Der Nackte Morgen) by Peter Pewas · 11:00 minutes, b&w: The engrossing 1957 slice-of-life documentary about Hamburg is breathtakingly beautiful, and nostalgic.
3 - Good Program Presenters: Whether introducing the program, or conducting a Question & Answer with directors afterward, being prepared, staying on point, and talking loud enough are imperative. Hanna S. consistently goes that extra mile for audiences.
4- Films: KFF: 27 THOUGHTS ABOUT MY FATHER (2019, 26:00, color/b&w, experimental), is Canadian Mike Hoolboom’s memorializing homage to his father. Twenty-seven vignettes, the number representing dad’s permanent birthday-age, track the course of his life, and the director’s interrelationship. “The heaven he believed in was right here.” Family movies/snapshots, found footage, and Hoolboom’s Voiceover emotionally commingle; production values are first-rate. COURT SKETCH ARTIST (Gerichtszeichner, 2018, 11:30, color, experimental-animation) is German Jochen Kuhn’s wickedly absorbing, provocative tale in the court artist’s words. One abnormal day in court, a controversial defendant’s beliefs—dismemberment, cult vs. religious—and the procedure’s unsettling shifting developments, gives way to skepticism, chaos, then perfidy. He muses how his sketches may be “relics” someday. The beautifully executed animation has exemplary sound design.
M&F: LITTLE FISH & CROCODILE (2018, 15:47, color, Germany/Republic of Congo co-production) is an African fable incarnated by director Stefanie Plattner. Under a speckled, swaying canopy of Odzala National Park’s trees there appears a visual feast of swirling colors and textures with gesticulating, dancing children. The Sanzia Mobimba Kindergarteners sing the tale of Crocodile’s neighborly visit to Fish, dancing under a full moon, and then night taking a malevolent turn. Come morning, one thing is clear: “Nature has its own laws.” This memorable fable-film has great camerawork, (native) music, and an enchanting cast. SPRING FEVER (2019, 8:47, color, Netherlands/Great Britain co-production) is so common-sense wise it’s a wonder more countries don’t follow suit. Every spring, the Netherlands education systems have one-week of sex-education classes for pre-teens; attendance isn’t forced. Director Anna Snowball sits in on an 8th grade Amsterdam class discussion about puberty and periods. Kids thrash out current code words, e.g., chocolate means menstruating, virginity, masturbating, bras, et cetera. Sure, some blush, giggle or snicker, but the level of unabashed frankness is intriguing. This “shame-free” approach to sex pays off; the country’s children are found to be the happiest in the world. Production values are spot on.
Three-Minute Quickie Honorable Mentions: MAR SEA by Fèlix Colomer (2019, 3:00, color, Spain) is a delightful tale of new friendships, and moral integrity. Taking the underground while waiting in a radio song competition queue, Paula and seatmate strike up a conversation. Paula enthuses; she’s already spent the thousand-euro winnings. The outsider is drawn in helping Paula, and … Editor’s pacing and camerawork are very good. LOST IN TRANSLATION? by Carol and Edward Lyon (2019, 3:29, color, Great Britain) is an ingenious play on words, definitions, and consequences of misinterpretation. Tourists traveling through Germany frequently see certain signage. First, the couple are intrigued and then determined to locate this “Ausfahrt.” Nevertheless, it’s found in translation (exit). Productions values are worthy in this comical rendering.
5- Friendly Staff: Last but definitely not least, the wonderful KFF staff that scurry around in the background non-stop. Their aim is to assure everything runs smoothly for filmgoers and guests’ entertainment and fun.