Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen

This year, Oberhausen was a festival of existential tests and questions. Also a festival of viewer reflection. As if, in a time when an incredible quantity of short films is being produced (over 6,500 films were submitted to Oberhausen), the act of watching is something that has to be re-learned. Curators are becoming more and more important - in the best cases, such as AA Bronson and Ian White, who was in charge of the entire "Kinomuseum" programme, they are not so much highly qualified DJs as something like intellectual cinematic storytellers. Hans Schifferle, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 11 May 2007

 

... even in its 53rd season, the Short Film Festival Oberhausen is still a one-of-a-kind event on the film scene. This status helps it to attract guests from all over the world, with a selection of cutting-edge films and themes. Addressed here are the latest short film trends, but just as importantly the current crisis phenomena. Ruediger Suchsland, Koelner Stadtanzeiger, 10 May 2007

 

 

Oberhausen is one of the most important places [for the short film] - above all because the genre and its creators do not just celebrate themselves here, during the International Short Film Festival, but rather try, via the various festival sections and discussions, to look beyond the horizon of familiar certainties. And that's where, outside the box of traditional cinema, astonishing discoveries can be made. Barbara Schweizerhof, epd Film Nr. 7/2007

 

The Kinomuseum as envisioned by the festival, however, unites the best of both worlds: cinema's broad public and free circulation of commodities with the museum's power to restore a film's mystic aura. The latter is guaranteed by the classic projection in the cinema itself which, considering its traditional dramaturgy of architectural prelude, slow dimming of the lights and secular consecration through the rising curtain, leaves every museum presentation far behind. Michael Kohler, film-dienst 12/2007, 7. Juni 2007

 

The German Competition as the second most important festival section was scheduled in prime time programme slots and offered four "feature-length" compilations uniting a wide range of forms between documentation, fiction, experimental and animation film (digital as well as analogue). It was the increasing blurring of boundaries which was most noticeable here, in terms of genre or technical classification as well as in the definition of what a short film of German origin ought to be. [...] It is from these cultural phase shifts that some fascinating tensions evolve. Claus Löser, film-dienst 12/2007, 7. Juni 2007

 

Ever since its fledgling days, the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen has been regarded as a particularly political festival. And with the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962, the founding fathers of Young German Film adopted the most significant group document in the history of German cinema. This is a tradition that festival director Lars Henrik Gass likes to carry forward. While he caused a stir last year with provocative theses on the state of German film promotion, this time around he predicted in his opening speech, referring to the increasing isolation of film reception through the Internet, DVDs and VoD and the migration of artistic short film to museums and galleries, that "the collective experience of cinema could soon be a thing of the past or at least play a minor role". Filmecho / Filmwoche No. 20, 18 May 2007

 

The fact that cinema with its interest in commercialisation cannot offer art a home is well-known. Filmmakers like Alexander Kluge and Peter Schamoni demanded in the Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962 that short film must remain a "natural field for experiment". New to the struggle for survival of the small species is the way it is looking toward the museum and demanding that it open itself to short film. Verena Friederike Hasel, Der Tagesspiegel, 9 May 2007

 

The good old short film, which we still remember as a prelude to a feature film at the cinema, is in its death throes. The new short film, created with increasing frequency on the computer, is everywhere: as music video, as short documentary, as feature, as art object. How does cinema have to change in order to present it, so that it doesn't end up in the kind of niche existence that to some extent has internalised the act of zapping? Oberhausen is trying to stem this tide with a steady series of new retros and panel discussions on the films. Short film is understood here as an important part of film culture, part of a cineaste public space. Hans Schifferle, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 11 May 2007

 

In times when cinema is surrendering to commerce and celebrity hype, [filmmakers] feel more at home in the museum. Oberhausen set up a corresponding situation with its "Kinomuseum". It was only temporary, but impressive nonetheless, demonstrating that, even in its fifty-third year, the festival is still non-conformist and up-to-the-minute. Andreas Rossmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11 May 2007

 

"I am the museum, you are the museum." This is how he [Ian White] opened every single programme during the four days of the series, which became a kind of cult event. Festival director Lars Henrik Gass remarked approvingly at the closing ceremony that people still didn't know what it was all about. This is in itself nothing new for the special programmes at Oberhausen, which have long outshone the competitions. What was new in this case was that this time no contribution was made to a cutting-edge scholarly discourse, but the audience was instead being initiated into an open and highly exciting associative chain. Starting from the neat observation that films often function as museums, but also are frequently put to use in the latter, the series celebrated above all the act of curating. It is only through short films that the joy of experiencing evident connections between exhibits can be transferred to the cinema at all. Daniel Kothenschulte, Frankfurter Rundschau, 11 May 2007

 

In the hands of London film curator Ian White, the ten programmes and one panel discussion of ["Kinomuseum"] revolved around the "white cube" and "black box". Film can be art, but the spaces in which cinematic art is presented obey disparate, sometimes even contrary laws. Gallery visitors are not expected to watch a thirty-minute artist's video from beginning to end, while at the cinema the comfortable seats alone entice visitors to stay seated and watch at length, for example, dirty grey skulls being brushed in Marina Abramovic's "Cleaning the Mirror". Dietmar Kammerer, taz - die tageszeitung, 10 May 2007

 

Particularly in the International Competition, in which 64 entries from 37 countries vied, there was a clear trend toward visually and dramaturgically exceptional documentaries, which uncover what is special about everyday life, in subtle and sometimes surprising ways. Gabrielle Schultz, Die Welt, 10 May 2007

 

And then there's the grandmother. Elevated to a mythical figure, she is a bulwark against the vagaries of existence. In Meghana Bisineer's touching and charming animated film "A Journey across Grandmother", a little girl wanders around her grandma's massive body as if trekking through a splendid landscape; the Japanese entry "Halu" pays homage to an illiterate grandmother who invented her own kind of writing. Verena Friederike Hasel, Der Tagesspiegel, 9 May 2007

 

All's well that ends well. Rarely in the past decades has it been possible to agree so wholeheartedly with the award decisions made at the Short Film Festival. The choices of the international jurors honoured the classic documentary as well as the bold experiment and the trend toward intimately told stories from the filmmaker's own family.

This jury is thus not alone in reflecting the enormous variety offered by the 53rd festival. And it was offered on a level that has not been seen at Oberhausen for a long time now. So much for the prophesies of doom: the short film form lives on more intensively than ever, only more colourful and certainly increasingly on a different media basis. The juries won't be able to decorate 35mm films much longer. A pity, certainly, but a development that can no longer be halted. Michael Schmitz, WAZ Oberhausen, 9 May 2007

 

The two music video programmes shown in Oberhausen, divided into "national" and "international" sections, were the best evidence of the fact that the decadent phase of a cultural phenomenon can often be more interesting than its heyday. While an abundance of small new independent producers and labels has sprouted here from the soil of the past, the few high-gloss productions that are still produced at great expense can only be viewed with the requisite melancholy. Barbara Schweizerhof, Friday, 11 May 2007

 

Art, culture is not an "extra"; it is an existential part of life. People, children who do not experience culture suffer from deficiencies. And there can be no talk here of missing class. Ever seen a programme of children's and youth films? In one-and-a-half hours you can not only gain insights into the various genres of film, but also take a journey around the world. From England to South Korea to New Zealand, Brazil, the USA and then Australia; it's about dreams, identity, feeling like a stranger and feeling accepted, about passion and hope, about religion, death and love... Missing class? Every film is a microcosm; the 90-minute programme, a miniature universe. Monika Idems, NRZ Oberhausen, 5 May 2007