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by Marinell Haegelin

The enchanting magic of movies is able to reach even remote Laos. Where rivers converge—the Nam Khan and Mekong River—sits Luang Prabang, a well-known spiritual center that also hosts a film festival each December. Gathering at a makeshift outdoors cinema, the community know this is their only opportunity to see movies until the next year’s festival. Whereas we in Hamburg are privy to film festivals, and cinemas, year round. The International Kurz(Short)FilmFestival (IKFF) cum Short Film Market and children’s film festival kick-off summer fun – this year June 3rd to 9th. The Market, evolving in 1992 in conjunction with the KurzFilmAgentur (ShortFilmAgency) links filmmakers, distributors / sales companies, and audiences. The Mo&Friese Kinder (Children) KurzFilmFestival was launched in 1999. Quite a feat for a NoBudget Short Film Festival that began in 1985, to be renamed IKFF in 1994.

An impressive fact is, IKFF is the second largest short film festival in Germany, and among the top ten in the world – right here in our own back yard! Year 2014 IKFF hosted its 30th festival, Mo&Friese its 16th: Films galore—in and out of competition, and special programs—were shown, events staged, panels and workshops offered, plus that handy NoBudget hotel – actually an off-location screening room with comfy couches that has ended up an unplanned filmmakers accommodation after some screenings. This niche festival caters to public filmgoers and industry – respectively 15,000 and 500 this year; 80 individuals from film festivals representing 37 countries came to Hamburg to checkout the agenda. Wow! Have you ever wondered what happens between one year’s festival and the next? After this year’s festival I met with Sven Schwarz, co-director with Birgit Glombitza of IKFF. Ostensibly, I was interviewing Sven about film genres, i.e. classifications (read interview page --). But, as I realized talking to Filmfest Hamburg’s people, film classifications go hand-in-hand with a festival’s structure.

Accordingly, here’s the scoop. Beginning the day after – they catch-up on sleep! Winding-down includes: returning screened films, paying bills, taking vacations, discussing next year’s festival. This year there were over 300 films from 50+ countries shown, and 159 events, panels, workshops. With three full-time IKFF employees, as the deadline for the next year’s festival approaches numbers fluctuate, increase: 120 like-remunerated employees kept IKFF on keel this year. August thru winter, they attend other festivals primarily to see what’s going on in the field. IKFF accepts submissions from late October to mid February; charging no fees and considering the technological ease of sending films, in 2014 6,000 films were submitted: “We (want to) display the art form of short films.”

Different groups decide each competition and special program’s film choices, with no one person making a final decision. Trusted curator(s) put together special programs as well, i.e. 2014’s ‘Country: Austria’, ‘Motive: Sports’, et al. Pre-selection narrowed the range to 600 films; the final, tough selections were made at screening retreats. Selectors make no compromises when choosing what they consider the best films for competition(s). Whereas for the Open Air events and screenings, knowing many will be first-time film festival attendees, audience-pleasing films are chosen. About five years ago some filmmakers began attaching screening fees that can be anywhere from 25 euros for one screening to 300 euros to screen a longer film twice: filmmakers screening in a competition don’t receive a fee.

In March the tempo ramps-up as film line-ups are programmed, the press department issues releases, and Sven adds film titles to the simultaneously laid out catalogue that by months end is given to the printer. In April the guest department comes on board planning accommodations, schedules, and travel arrangements; although they operate on a tight budget IKFF extends financial assistance toward travel, etc. on a case-by-case basis. The number of personnel increases dramatically, with at least 16 office staff by the end of May. And then… for us filmgoers, the magic begins. For the IKFF people, sleep deprivation. For all, fun. And now you know just how lucky we are.