31st Hamburg Short Film Festival concludes

This year’s Hamburg International Short Film Festival came to a conclusion last Sunday, ending the festival’s tradition of diverse films, industry events and extremely late nights for another year. The 31st edition of the festival boasted many highlights. A large number of guests attended from across the world (including US filmmaker Jennifer Reeder – who has been somewhat of a fixture at European film festivals over the past few months - and Hamburg stalwart Simon Ellis) and the festival introduced new industry sessions talking about film journalism (which included the editor of Cineuropa Shorts) and one focusing on festival strategy featuring programmers from Berlinale and Rotterdam. And of course there we lots of meetings had at the legendary Festivalzentrum which saw people stay until the break of dawn to talk about the industy and – on one occasion – sing some karaoke.

At the heart of it all was the films including the International, No Budget and German competitions as well as the infamous Three Minute Quickies and numerous special programmes and retrospectives. There was also another edition of A Wall Is A Screen - an event that originated in Hamburg - which attracted a record 1200 people to the city's harbour area.

The big winner of the festival was Brouillard – Passage #14 (Dir. Alexandre Larose, Canada, 2014) which won the Hamburg Short Film Award in the International Competition. The jury – consisting of Douwe Dijkstra, Joan Kristin Bleicher, Kate MacKay, Eva Schweizer and Joel Wanek – said of the film:

“Alexandre Larose shows that after over a hundred years of experimentation with film you can still push the boundaries of the medium. Through precise technique and mastery of his materials the filmmaker creates an immersive landscape of colour and light that each viewer can experience in his own way – an experience which is fully realized when the film is projected from 35mm film. The jury applauds Larose for reminding us of how beautiful film can be.”

A special mention went to the simple yet elegant documentary Onni – The Joy of Everyday Life (Dir. Sanna Liljander, Finland, 2014). In the festival’s No Budget Competition, the jury – made up of Mick Hannigan, Rainer Kohlberger, and Elina Rislakki – gave the award to La baracca (Dirs. Federico Di Corato & Alessandro De Leo, Italy 2014). The jury said of the film

“'La Barraca' is a strong and beautifully photographed film in which children act as both, protagonists and participants in the process of filmmaking. The rich visual language is only one of many complex layers of the film’s strong artistic position. The use of VHS film creates an atmosphere of authenticity, so that the traditional distinctions between fiction and documentary become meaningless.”

A special mention went to Bétail (Dir. Joana Sousa, Portugal 2014) while the No Budget Audience Award went to Un cuento de amor, locura y muerte (Dir. Mijael Bustos Gutiérrez, Chile 2015)

In the German Competition, the main prize went to Symbolic Threats (Dirs. Mischa Leinkauf, Lutz Henke & Matthias Wermke, Germany 2014) which also won the festival's Audience Award. The jury, made up of Susann Maria Hempel, Janina Kriszio, Timo Schierhorn, said of the film

“Wermke/Leinkauf produced a “bridging error” over night: when NYC went to bed, two American flags flew on top of the Brooklyn bridge, just as usual. But when the city woke up in the morning, the flags had turned white. From the distance this image looked like a capitulation. A closer look, however, revealed the flags suturing two sorts of white and averting any form of symbolic gesture. Instead, the flags squeezed into their outrageous white: all kind of fears. The film choreographs the polyphony of the media coverage about an alleged intention of an “overslept” action. The radical absent of the actual flag swap in the film functions as a contrast – not only regarding the display of a society’s paranoia, but also in reference to a secret longing for freedom."

The jury chose 36000 Frames RGB, 29th Special: The Manifestation of Capitalism in Our Lives is Sadness (Dirs. Ray Juster & Nicolaas Schmidt, Germany 2015) in the Hamburg competition.

The Audience Award for the ultra short film programme known as the Three-Minute Quickies, the topic for 2015 being ‘Based on a true story’, went to the moving and powerful documentary Malekia (Dir. Shahin Mohammad Bagher, Iran/Syria 2014) The ARTE Short Film Award – which comes with acquisition of screening rights and broadcast as part of ARTE’s short film programme – went to Excursie (Dir. Adrian Sitaru, Romania 2014).

(Photo (c) Xenia Zarafu)

17 June 2015, by Laurence Boyce