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The Unsung Heroes
by Marinell Haegelin

The past two years Filmfest Hamburg’s headquarters have been at the Pony Bar, located next to Abaton Cinema (Allende Platz 1) where industry screenings this year took place from October 1st through 8th. As journalists, film industry professionals, and associations and institutions members arrived, oftentimes blurry eyed from the previous days full schedule, we were warmly greeted, informed of schedule changes and / or directed to the correct theatre. Food and drink was available, clean tables to sit at and theatres (three) to sit in. The Abaton hummed with quiet, friendly efficiency. Therefore I, we, offer a standing ovation to the team that made our lives so comfortable.

Most mornings it was Robert Volkmann who greeted us at the door, while Tobias Mathieu was busy with an assistant in the screening booths setting up the film reels. Industry screenings ran between 09:45 and 17:00, when Michael de Wall took over for the evening public screenings. Admirably, the team not only rotates positions on a “need be” basis but also remove rubbish left in theatres after screenings.

There were 72-industry screenings, so imagine: previously theatres used the two-reel system, which required the projectionist catching the cue marks at the end of a reel, usually a white dot or circle at the upper right corner of the picture, and manually making the changeover from one projector to another. Abaton however has the single reel system: the oversized spools (12,000 foot [3,660 m] capacity or about 133 minutes) requires 45-minutes to prepare a film i.e. take the smaller 20-minute reels of film and splice together to one large reel on a horizontal rotating table called a platter, load and then auto Start / Stop. One film arrived just as it was to screen: to expedite Korkoro’s press screening they spliced together smaller chunks, which is why the film momentarily stopped twice before continuing to the end.

To boost our adrenalin, morale and physical fortification, Ignazio Bonanno and his team’s welcoming attention was greatly appreciated. Coffee in all its wonderful variations, soft drinks or water, snacks, and best of all Andrea Bonanno’s homemade mouth-watering muffins and pastries — delicious, addictive and served with a smile or a joke by hubby and his crew, gave one strength for the next screening.

Noteworthy: during the film festival the secondary team, important for manning the Kasse (ticket booth), snack bar and assisting the projectionist slipped in and no one was the wiser. And not just during the film festival: the crew at Abaton is teamwork at its best and ensures we moviegoers an even more pleasant experience.