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Now! Is the Time to Mellow Out
by Marinell Haegelin

Now comfortably settled and at home in their cavernous “Playground” area at the Post/DHL complex on Kaltenkirchen Platz, and now that people are again experiencing the normality of a second post-COVID in-person opening ceremony, the mood was relaxed. Laid back, and downright mellow. Now! The groundwork was laid in 2018, and attendees now know their way to and through that grand hole-in-the-wall into the magical marvels of the trinity of shorts: Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg (KFF), KurzFilmAgentur (KFA), and Mo&Friese Junges Kurzfilm Festival (Mo&Friese).

Now! “This year’s edition looks at contemporary urgencies and current issues reflecting the past. It’s all about the present, our actions, here and now!” Now!—actions matter! KFF’s trailer was designed by Berlin-based filmmaker/artist Ann Oren whose whimsical approach qualifies the theme: “The only thing wrong with the present is the bastard doesn’t exist, because the present is the future and the future is the past.”

The early June weather was gracious for the thirty-ninth festival’s opening with attendees gathering outside and in. The vast hall, kept wide open for roaming, offered clusters of seating scattered around and picnic tables at the far end nearest the stage and humongous screen proudly displaying their logo. —Their queue was persistently long for complimentary tostados—muchas gracias! and ChariTea was on offer. To complement the weather, refreshing Begrüßung (welcoming) cocktails (Sekt /maracuya [passion fruit]) were served just prior to watching the 2023 trailer and hearing the Kurzfilm team’s bilingual (German/English) presentations.

KFF’s Co-director Sven Schwarz kicked off by announcing they’re guaranteed the Post space until at least 2027 (knock wood, considering developers circle Hamburg like vultures knowing how easy the pickings here can be). Hallelujah! He added a general overview, and that the festival’s one hundred and fifty-five staff members’ goal is to assure everyone’s comfort. Co-director Maike Mia Höhne, after thanking the program designer and giving an overview of the program, announced over five thousand films were received for consideration, and watched. Of those, one hundred and thirty-three were selected for the competition categories: International, German and Triple Axel. Naturally, there are the special programs: Laboratory of the Present 1, 2, 3; Archive of the Present 1, 2, and so many Happenings they could have filled engagement calendars for a month.

Celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday, Mo&Friese’s Lina Paulsen, director/curator, said the day began with two hundred and fifty six-year-olds watching films, i.e., combining education with passion at a young age, particularly since nowadays children are savvier younger. Alexandra Gramatke, KFA’s Managing Director, talked about the importance of and challenges for short films. Particularly financial funding, and that message was strong throughout the presentations.

Challenges: the salient point is the German authorities—like everywhere else in the world, if truth be told—don’t really recognize künstlerisch Arbeit (artistic work), to the chagrin of professionals, especially freelancers, in the industry. Referenced were the drastic funding cuts to France’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival (an Oscar® qualifying festival) and their 16.05.2023 open letter to the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Regional Council’s president. *The topic of (lack of) funding’s being repeated at various film festivals.

Filmmaker and videoartist Martin Heckmann (2022†) was eulogized for his creative prowess and contributions to the craft. His work was previously screened at KFF. Then jurors for the competition categories were introduced, the Ukraine contenders, that the “Nite Life” DJ would be spinning records later for more mellowness, and that selected films were showing on a loop in the gemütlich “Lampenlager” cinema.

After a fifteen-minute break, everyone met in the Open Space for an introduction to the 2023 installation, Luftwerk’s Scenography of Space. Artists Petra Bachmaier & Sean Gallero, Chicago, USA, explained Hans Richter's 1921 film RHYTHMUS 21 was an inspiration: suspended geometric colored shapes and choreographed three-minute light projections running on a loop create rhythms emphasizing light/color of the abstract forms thus relating conceptually to Richter's studies. Expanding on the Now! theme with relationship to light and movement in media art, and how its space-related shifting integrates “a variable viewer perspective” for visitors. Indeed, it was intoxicatingly relaxing walking through the space. Mellow and mighty, the trinity of Shorts certainly knows how to educate, entertain, and enrich its guests and its city/state. Now! is wow.