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The KinoCritics Report on Internationales KurzFilmFestival Hamburg 2005
by Karen Pecota

Recently Hamburg celebrated its 21st International Short Film Festival, drawing over 14,000 viewers over a six day period. It’s Hamburg’s oldest film festival to have won international acclaim under the managing direction of Astrid Kühl and her team from the Hamburg Short Film Agency.

In connection with Hamburg’s film heritage, this festival is important in a number of ways because it expands the horizons of the industry through exploring film’s style as an art form. With today’s technology, there are virtually unlimited possibilities for creativity using imagination to encompass short drama, documentaries, experimental films using various forms of animation, etc. The trick or goal is to express your message quickly, whether tame or bizarre. This year, the festival received over 3,300 films entries from over ninety countries with 350 being selected for presentation.

The festival gives filmmakers and their works a platform for companies to observe a variety of media interpretations. These young filmmakers are people who thrive on being on the cutting edge of progress, and through their interpretation of “a message in a film”, they represent what the next generation will be attracted to for advertising. The festival also provides an open door for individuals to enter their personal projects with no agenda aside from seeing if their talents can measure up to the competition.

A classic short film is fifteen minutes in length. However, in this festival the films could range from three to thirty-two minutes. This is not to take the place of the feature film style that we are used to viewing in the theater, but it is a style all its own. This particular style uses a program format which comprises six to eight short films to make up one program that will last forty-five minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. For example, one category was called Made in Hamburg, which had two programs comprised of seven short films making up one full program.

AWCH film journalist Adele Riepe and I had the privilege of meeting a very nice young director named John Cannizzaro from L.A., California. His entry to the festival was in the No Budget category using animation and was called America the Beautiful: “a very short, animated, bizarre and violent history of The United States of America”. He was hopeful to be a winner this year since his entry last year did not earn a prize. However, he mentioned that he attended mostly for the experience, and he was happy to return to Hamburg.

As a film journalist, one can not attend a film festival without interviewing someone about something because there is just too much to talk about when viewing and dissecting film after film. I chose our own KinoCritics film journalists Adele Riepe and Becky Tan and asked them to respond to three questions:

Karen: What are your first impressions of this short film festival?
Adele: How YOUNG the members of the audience were, including those with accreditation cards around their necks. Also, the fact that beginning on Friday, the theatres were 80% full at 17:30 and 100% full after that, at least at Zeise [Kino].
Becky: I’m glad that I’ve been to film festivals before, because I felt quite at home. This one is more laid back, but definitely a festival. I was impressed at the number of ongoing filmmakers there are and wonder where they will all end up and who will see all those films.

Karen: What did you most enjoy?
Adele: I loved the first two sets of Made in Germany films and both sets of Made in Hamburg.
Becky: I enjoyed the fact that all films were open to everyone (for a price), which meant that I could go for a day. I enjoyed the type of people there: young, maybe poor, many practicing their English, everyone seemingly having fun. I enjoyed the catalog and the fact that everything was in English and then in German. I enjoyed the fact that all films were either in English or with English subtitles. I like going over to Zeise or Metropolis for a change and will try to find the other two cinemas next year. Everyone was terribly nice to me, one of the few old grey-haired ladies there – everyone else was between 20 and 35.

Karen: What would you like our readers to know about this festival?
Adele: As there is virtually no other chance to see these short films, I would just suggest that one go over next year to the Zeise Kino by 16:30 on a day you would like to see the films and buy tickets for the groups that interest you (they begin at 17:30). There are lots of great cafes with salads, sandwiches and more, and of course, Kaffee und Kuchen all within a block of the cinema where you can kill time until the films begin.
Becky: Well, not all films are wonderful, and it’s all right if you get up and leave. One should be really interested in films as an art form and not expect everything to have a peppy plot, although films will definitely be as professional as possible – no home movies here. But, do pick up a schedule next year and go for an evening and try it out. The three-minute quickies are definitely fun.

This film festival continues to build on its strengths and weakness and shines more like a diamond every year. I am impressed with the leadership of this festival, and I cannot imagine Hamburg without this favorite event.