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The 28th Filmfest Hamburg
by Becky Tan

The 28th Filmfest Hamburg showed September 24 to October 3, 2020. Due to obstacles resulting from the Covid 19 pandemic, the head of the festival, Albert Wiederspiel, and his talented team revised the procedure to ensure that viewers, filmmakers, participants, etc., could participate without being endangered.

This year there were 76 films on view from 49 countries, approximately half as many as in 2019. They showed in five cinemas: Abaton, CinemaxX, Dammtor, Metropolis, Passage, and Studio-Kino. Each cinema reduced the number of tickets available to one third, leaving space around each viewer. As a result, 13,690 people sat in the audiences or just 30% as compared to last year.

In order to compensate, all remaining “seats” were offered for sale to view online. For example, if a cinema, e.g., Abaton, had 260 seats, but could only fill 90, then 170 tickets for that particular showing were sold for online streaming. Fifty films were available for this possibility and 3000 viewers took advantage of this offer.

The 76 films showed in the usual nine sections such as Transatlantic (North America and Great Britain), Voila (France, Quebec), Asia Express (Far East), or Große Freiheit (Hamburg). Opening film was ENFANT TERRIBLE (2020) by Oskar Roehler. The closing film was NOMADLAND (2020) by Chloé Zhao.

Normally film professionals from around the world are present. This year just 200 guests were welcomed, most of them from Germany, as they did not have the problem of long-term quarantine. The red carpet was smaller; in order to avoid having crowds hanging over the railings to cheer guests, as was typical in the past. No more than three professionals could be photographed at one time without wearing a mask. Wiederspiel said,” The film festival this year is more film than festival.”

This year the usual juries awarding prizes were absent. The exception was the Commerzbank, which awarded its annual 5000 euros to the film which audiences voted to be their favorite. All 76 films (except those for TV and Michel categories as well as the final film NOMADLAND) were candidates for this award. The winner was GUNDA (2020) by director Victor Kossakovsky.

The Filmfest Hamburg and the Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein (FFHSH) put together 11 discussions for accredited journalists. These were live panel discussions onstage at Cinemaxx 3. Topics discussed were, for example, diversity among filmmakers as well as types of films, the influence of Netflix, visions for the future, marketing, etc. As seats were limited to 20 viewers, journalists could apply to view the discussion online. The Filmförderung was proud that seven of the many films which they have supported financially this year showed in the festival.

There were 32 partners supporting the festival including ARTE, fritz-kola and Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein. The most financial support came from Hamburg’s Behörde für Kulture and Medien, followed by NDR, Auswärtige Amt, Commerzbank, Hapag-Lloyd, Fernsehlotterie, Grand Elysee, Moia, and Studio Hamburg.

In the last days of the festival, October 2-3, the 17th documentary film festival came together in Metropolis Cinema, showing 13 films, with 12 either in English or with English subtitles. The 29th Filmfest Hamburg is planned for September 30-October 9, 2021.

Special Note: KinoCritics applauds all film makers, writers, and actors and production teams who faced a new frontier during this pandemic crisis with all its new regulation to create the films for us viewers around the world. Thanks!