When I decided to move to Wiesbaden, one of the first things I did was check and see if there were any local film festivals. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there were, in fact, several festivals to choose from, and one of the biggest was the goEast Film Festival. It was founded in 2001 and focuses on Central and Eastern European film. Over the course of seven days, films from the region are brought into focus along with panels with filmmakers and academics about socio-political issues, film theory, and history, as well as exhibitions featuring experimental visual artists and virtual reality. Since 2020, the festival has been operating with a hybrid format with many films and other experiences available online.
Two thousand twenty-two wasafascinating year to first experience the festival, as obviously the situation throughout Eastern Europe is particularly tense due to the expansion of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Despite pressure from various Ukrainian groups to ban Russian films from the festival, goEast chose to instead only show Russian films which did not receive any state funding. This was controversial, and the Ukrainian winner of the 2021 festival, Alina Gorlova (for THIS RAIN WILL NEVER STOP) decided to withdraw her film from being shown again this year at the festival in protest. There were also several expert panels focusing on the conflict in Ukraine and the impact it has on filmmakers and the industry.
In addition to a broad selection of recent films, there were several retrospective sections looking at historical films. The homage section to the Georgian director Lana Gogoberidze showcased ten of her films shown throughout the festival. There was also a selection of post-Soviet cinema, looking back at the thirty years following the fall of the Soviet Union and the impact it made on cinema. For the first time, the symposium section focused on a Western European filmmaker, choosing to look at Jean-Luc Goddard’s work and the influence of the Cold War and Marxism-Leninism on his films. The symposium not only featured several lectures by prominent academics, but also provided context with several films by Goddard and Eastern European filmmakers who influenced his work.
Perhaps most interesting was the Cinema Archipelago section which was a supporting program that focuses on innovative audio-visual creative works. The multimedia project the Yugoretten was physically present in the Landesmuseum Wiesbaden along with a social media presence. In the virtual reality space, creative teams built a virtual bathhouse with various rooms,with which users could interact. Several different relaxing rooms were created that users could move their avatars through to socialize or experience various immersive short films. The virtual reality experience was also presented for a few days in the nearby city of Darmstadt where virtual headsets were made available for the public along with interactive film experiences.
For a small film festival, goEast presents an impressive and innovative program concentrating on perspectives often overlooked in the wider film community. The 2022 edition provided some fascinating context to some current world events while also allowing for nuanced perspectives from professional insiders and academics. Considering the impact that Central and Eastern European issues continue to have on the global stage, the goEast Film Festival provides a key insight into the region and its diverse culture and people.