The 17th Filmfest Hamburg, September 24-October 3, featured 142 films from 40 countries in eight categories. Films showed at Abaton, Cinemaxx, 3001, Metropolis and Zeise Cinema. Ticket sales were up 10% (38,000 tickets), but the festival also ran ten days compared to eight days last year.
New this year was the Hamburg Studio Lounge in front of the Pony Bar at Grindelhof which provided a needed meeting point for the festival. There were probably twice as many workshops and exhibits this year, sponsored by both the festival and also by the Hamburg-Schleswig-Holstein Filmförderung. Some were “A Discussion with Danish actress Paprika Steen,” “Researching Your Film,” or “Book to Film.” There were discussions with directors, actors, and moderators after many films, and all participants received flowers, which was a nice gesture. There was even a final party for us, although our group of eight accredited journalists was too pooped to party. Young videobloggers reported directly from the scene of the action, both in German and English.
Tip for next year: set up a couple of computers at the festival headquarters, so that we can check in with the videobloggers during the day without having to lug our own laptops or log in before breakfast.
There was no Micromovie contest or free flashlight ballpoint pens and the bags (simple in red and white) didn’t compare with ones past. Journalists do like their little treats. The festival crew didn’t seem to have festival T-shirts. On the other hand, Albert Wiederspiel and other organizers wore green scarves, a gift from Iranian director Sepideh Farsi. For the first time an Iranian film No One Knows about Persian Cats ended the festival. Two showings were insufficient for the opening film Soul Kitchen which was sold out way in advance. Something that important should not be so exclusive.
If there is a trend in movies, perhaps it’s that more often music is used sparingly, wisely, and intelligently, e.g., Room and a Half, Pandora’s Box, Carcasses, The White Meadows, and She, A Chinese.
Hamburger Abendblatt journalist Karoln Jacquemain called for more films in German or with German subtitles. We disagree. No way! Please let’s have more films in English or with English subtitles. What better way to keep the festival international, rather than just local and provincial. Some films, e.g., Meet the Elisabeths, were advertised “in the original with English subtitles” which turned out to be German subtitles after all. A disappointment.
Perhaps there was less money to spend this year; but, as some believe, less money sparks more creativity, so that, in the end, it was a wonderful festival. Something to look forward to next year: September 23 to October 2.