Last year Becky Tan stepped up to the stage when asked at the last minute by Filmfest Hamburg (FFHH) to introduce a film and act as a moderator after the screening. With her endless enthusiasm and willingness to be involved, she inspired me to volunteer this year. No question, I was nervous about getting up in front of potentially hundreds of strangers in a movie theater, but I thought that if Becky could do it, so could I! FFHH asked me to moderate the film Carcasses by French-Canadian Denis Côté. Information and a DVD was supposedly in the mail but several days later, still nothing and it was almost show time. With no help from the festival, I asked Becky for advice and she came through as always, with everything about moderation that I needed to know.
Since my film was being screened at Zeise Kino in Altona, I went early for two films and also to avoid any problems with the hour-long commute. Although I did get snarled in traffic, I was rewarded with a parking place directly in front of the theater making me only fifteen minutes late for my first film. My second film started over half an hour late due to technical problems so my vision of a relaxing dinner before my stage debut ended with a Döner and cheap glass of white. I went to the theater fifteen minutes before the film, as instructed by Becky, and was happy to meet Kathrin Kohlstedde with entourage of Denis Côté and some other FFHH folks. I was shown how to work the microphone and then Denis and I went into the theater and walked down front. Blazing overhead lights completely blinded me, so I introduced the film and Denis to an invisible audience and he talked briefly. He then left the film and I sat down to watch Carcasses for the first time.
After the screening, I again took center front and Denis joined me. After posing the first question, I stepped off to one side so I could actually see the audience and take questions. There were only about thirty people in the audience with just a few questions, but I asked a few more to let Denis talk about the film he wrote, produced and directed. After about fifteen minutes, when it seemed the audience was restless, I thanked Denis and as we walked out of the theater, one guy came after Denis and said, “I loved your film!”
Carcasses is a film about an eccentric old man, Jean-Paul, who lives in a junkyard and sells old cars. The first half hour is all about his daily life of moving junk around and occasionally making a sale. Then four young people with Down’s syndrome show up and camp. One of them falls over dead. They all bury him. Not exactly a film I would recommend to my sisters, but I would like to introduce Denis to my nieces. He was charming and gave us lots of details about Jean-Paul, who really was the owner of the junkyard and was filmed doing what he always did. What the film didn’t show, was that septuagenarian Jean-Paul went dancing every night and had just married a 20-year-old Cuban girl which explained his Spanish lessons.
Taking part in FFHH, even in such a small way, truly enhances the film festival experience by enabling you to meet interesting people - and have a free drink or two. To be a moderator, all you need to know is to arrive early, enjoy the show and ask a few questions. Now volunteer!