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29th Filmfest Hamburg: Festival Introduction
by Becky Tan

The 29th Filmfest Hamburg opened September 30, 2021. Festival Director Albert Wiederspiel was awarded the Senator-Biermann-Ratjen-Medaille. This goes each year, since 1978, to a person or a group which contributes outstanding support to Hamburg’s art and culture. The opening film was GROßE FREIHEIT, which, as Wiederspiel reminded us, is a good example of freedom of expression which is not always a given, even in Germany.

For the following nine days the festival showed 110 films from 57 countries, in 13 Hamburg cinemas. This year there were twice as many viewers with 24,859, compared to 2020, when the world of cinemas was only possible online. Naturally, we still have to catch up with 2019, when the world was still “normal,” and 45,000 viewers attended the festival.

Many more film makers attended personally than were expected, considering the pandemic: 392 representing 87 films from 32 countries. For those unable to attend, interviews and discussions were taped and shown online. In order to assure that only 50% of the tickets were distributed, every other seat in the cinema was blocked, or as they described it: chess-board seating. Even couples arriving together did not sit together but were required to leave a free seat between each other.

There were nine panel discussions on relevant topics such as the quality of scripts and directing, Germany after the recent political election, the role of German films internationally, inclusion/diversity, support for upcoming film makers, the cinema of the future and the Zentrum Audiovisuelle Kulturen Hamburg, All of the discussions are available via online streaming. 

For the last years, guests were not presented with bouquets of flowers. Instead, the money has been donated, in the name of the guest, to a worthy cause. This year it was the Afghanistan Frauenverein e.V. Hamburg. More than 50 companies, individuals or organizations supported the festival with personnel and information, as well as financially.

The festival ended on October 9 with WO IN PARIS DIE SONNE AUFGEHT. Wiederspiel said, “We are thrilled that these statistics (of attendance) show how enthusiastic Hamburgers are about cinema, film, and festivals and also it shows how much we want culture to be on a personal basis. My goal for the 30th Filmfest Hamburg 2022 is a 100% attendance without any restrictions, no masks required, and even more visitors, guests, and parties.”

Parallel to the Filmfest Hamburg was the 19th Michel Kinder und Jugend Filmfest Hamburg, October 1-5, 2021, in Abaton. There were seven films, as well as short films from the PFEFFERKÖNER series and a special showing for “minis” with five short films between two and seven minutes in length. Children between the ages of 4 to 16 attended enthusiastically.

We can now look forward to the 30th Filmfest Hamburg: September 29-October 8, 2022.