Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen

The Language of Attraction

The Language of Attraction: Trailers between Advertising and the Avant-garde 

Everybody knows them; everybody has seen them – movie trailers. Part advertising, part summary, employing techniques of condensation, coercion, explication and hyperbole, they are often seen as a mere “subservient” genre, a commercial product. What constitutes their distinctive cinematic language? How has it changed as the film industry has developed? How have artists engaged with the form and material of trailers? The 65th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen is dedicating a big Theme programme to this short film genre and its historic, aesthetic, and social contexts. In eight film programmes featuring around 100 trailers and numerous works by artists, the Festival takes a close look at a genre whose cinematic language, however malleable, has nonetheless remained instantly recognisable. The programme is curated by Cassie Blake and Mark Toscano (Los Angeles).


As an introduction, Vinzenz Hediger presents a selection of trailers that use a variety of stylistic approaches, because compiling an edit of the most spectacular film scenes is only one method among many. Over the course of film history, unique material created solely for promotion, behind-the-scenes footage, introductions hosted by directors or actors and other materials were used, all of them existing outside the realm of the feature. Keith M. Johnston introduces a programme of trailers featuring technologies, ranging from cinematic achievements including Cinemascope and Technicolor to ingenious marketing ploys such as Odorama and Percepto. The rare use of female voiceover in coming attractions will also be explored, as will pre-show trailers – so-called snipes, which range from advertisements for refreshments to public service announcements recommending church attendance.


A second, important strand of the Theme programme is dedicated to artists and filmmakers who use the form and material of trailers in their own practice. Under the title “Thin Premises/Shocking Exposés”, the Festival will present works by Chris Langdon (today Inga Uwais) who used trailers and other marginal cinematic forms for her satirical takes on anything from Picasso to Bondage to Structuralism. The US filmmaker Damon Packard, fascinated by 1970s and early 80s genre cinema, produced works such as The Early 70s Horror Trailer or SpaceDisco One that are as much a parodic deconstruction of genre tropes as they are a bloody valentine to their inspirations. Two other programmes of works by various artists including Peggy Ahwesh and Stan Brakhage illustrate how different artists have reacted to, re-interpreted and commented on the language and material of trailers.


The Curators:


Cassie Blake is a Film Preservationist at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive. In 2010 she helped establish the world’s largest collection of theatrical trailers on film, the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at the Academy Film Archive. Her writing on the subject is featured in Films that Sell: Moving Pictures and Advertising and she has curated trailer screenings at Deutsche Kinemathek, Hollywood Theatre, and MoMA, among others.



Mark Toscano is a curator, filmmaker, and film preservationist based in Los Angeles. Since 2003, he has worked at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive, where he specializes in artists’ films, including those of Stan Brakhage, Barbara Hammer, Tacita Dean, and many others. He has curated programmes at venues including Oberhausen, MoMA, Arsenal, Tate Modern, and festivals in North America, Europe, and Asia. He is a programmer with Los Angeles Filmforum, and lectures in Experimental Animation at CalArts.




Thursday, 2 May, 10.30 h (tbc)
An Introduction to the Theme
Programme Cassie Blake and Mark Toscano


Thursday, 2 May, 17 h
The Unseen Scene: Coming Attractions as Featured Presentations
(introduced by Vinzenz Hediger)

Thursday, 2 May, 22 h
Thin Premises/Shocking Exposés: The Films of Chris Langdon
(with Inga Uwais, formerly Chris Langdon)

Friday, 3 May, 10 h
Between Marketing and Art: the Cinema of Coming Attractions
Panel discussion with Vinzenz Hediger, Keith M. Johnston, Damon Packard, and Inga Uwais.
Moderated by Cassie Blake and Mark Toscano.

Friday, 3 May, 14.30 h
Never before Possible: Trailers that Sell Advancement and Artifice
(introduced by Keith M. Johnston)

Saturday, 4 May, 19.30 h
The Journey that Begins where Everything Ends! Damon Packard’s Delirious Universe
(with Damon Packard)

Sunday, 5 May, 10.30 h
Viewer Discretion Advised: Appropriating the Language of Trailers

Sunday, 5 May, 17 h
Better Seen than Heard: The Anomaly of Female Voiceover in Trailers

Monday, 6 May, 12.30 h
Ad/Agency: Cinematic Advertising at the Pre-Show


Monday, 6 May, 17 h 
A Material Attraction: Trailers as Source

The Theme programme will be accompanied by a seminar for students (only upon prior application) from 2 to 5 May.

Oberhausen, 8 March 2019

Press contact:
Sabine Niewalda,, T +49 (0)208 825-3073