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The Short Film Festival takes Seed
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

The Hamburg Short Film Festival turns out to be one big party with a lot to offer.  It took me ten years to figure that out. At first I had concentrated on the Children Short Film Festival and attended many of them with my son.  It was always interesting to see an international array of films showing the life styles of children living around the world.  I then started branching out in to the adult side of the short film section, trying to understand the concepts behind many of these bizarre and artistic films.  Many of them have left a life time impression on me and as Sven Schwarz, one of the Film Festival directors said that is exactly how it should be.  Many of the films are strange, bleak, funny or obscure and many make absolutely no sense but leave you with a strange feeling.  If you react to them or feel some sort of irritation or just laugh, you have got the right response; thus making them artistically important and unforgettable films. But this was the year that I graduated from kid’s films to adult film section which included enjoying the party scene and checking out all action around me. It started at the opening of the festival with two girls handing out multiple glasses of Bacardi to those who were attending the ceremony.  I unfortunately arrived early and had to wait a long time. Since I don’t drink alcohol I really felt a bit out of place especially when there were two different occasions where two random people nearly spilt their drinks on my head. The people were already getting drunk and I was beginning to think about what I am doing here. The opening ceremony began and all that chaos fell away as I really started to enjoy myself. The speeches were short and sweet, and Ruth Rockenschaub, moderator and stand-up comedian had it perfectly timed with her keen sense of humor as she introduced categories and the various people involved.  The short films they showed were all different from one another and were entertaining. It was all in all a great beginning to the festival.

When the festival started it was quite small but took hold of some unique idea’s and like sowing seeds in the earth these ideas grew into the festival it is today.  During my interview with Sven Schwarz, he explained some of the interesting items on the itinerary that might not be discovered and highlighted some of these happenings. He said this year is chocked full of special presentations since we are having the 30th Anniversary at the festival. It is a unique walking tour of the city of Hamburg while viewing films that take you a step back in time.  It is an interesting way to see the architecture of the city as well as the technological development of filmmaking at the same time. For example A Wall is a Screen which takes a public space and makes a random wall of any building into an open-air cinema.  It started with 32mm film and end up at viewing a super 8mm film at the end. It includes films on VHS and U-matic.

Another unique event was a workshop on film development done in an environmental way.  The workshop was called The Coffee, Beer and Organic Fruit Juice Revolution and was directed by Dagie Brundert. She had several members film the festival area with super 8 cameras, and then showed them her own developing techniques.  We had the chance to see the finished films at the closing ceremony and they were quite interesting.

This festival has become one of the most important festivals of its kind in the world.  It is internationally well attended, not only by filmmakers but by distributers, theater owners and other festival coordinators. According to Sven Schwarz, it really is a big party and everyone is accessible. One minute you may be talking to filmmakers from Hong Kong and the next a film festival director from France. Everyone is open and enjoying themselves.  They are happy to exchange ideas and want to hear what your ideas are.  By the time I had finished the festival, I had attended workshops, discussion panels, and art instillations and several different short categories which were so different from one another it was hard to mix them up.  The shorts have grown on me where I truly have a place in my heart for them but I can say that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For instance my husband can’t stand them.  I even talked him into going as my Anniversary present and choose one of the categories which is more accessible to the general public.  It was the three minute quickie competition on the theme on doping. What could go wrong? Unfortunately the moderator made the mistake of introducing all 28 filmmakers and trying to get them to talk about their films before they even ran. I had the impression that the man with the little hat maybe had a bit too much of the Bacardi and didn’t see that his audience was not appreciating his efforts as they began to doze off or leave. My husband laughed and said,” I think you need to find a new partner to watch these films. I can’t take it anymore.”  So I guess I have to end by saying I will be back but it looks like I need to run an ad for a new partner in crime who is willing to watch films, enjoys meeting loads of people and can stay up all night and have fun.

Until next year….