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Hamburg’s International Short Film Festival 2016
by Becky Tan

Since this is Hamburg, Germany, the festival title is German: the Internationales KurzFilmFest Hamburg (IKFF). This 32nd festival  year ran May 31 to June 6, 2016. There were five categories of competition as  well as the Mo&Friese Children’s Short Film Festival. The organizers sorted  through 5860 applications for the best short films of 2016. Thirteen jurors  awarded eight prizes to seven films from the U.S., Germany, Great Britain,  Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Holland. The Pine  Tree Villa, directed by Jan Koester, Germany, won two prizes. The winners  shared 18,500 euros prize money, of which ARTE television donated a generous  6000 euros. And then there were the darling 16 young jurors between the ages of  8 and 17, who awarded prizes in the Mo& Friese Children’s Short Film  Festival. A “short” film can run up to 30 minutes in length.

I was especially interested in two categories. One was  Cinematic Realities in former Eastern Germany. Anja Ellenberger, who is  affiliated with the Hamburg Art Museum and the University of Hamburg, sorted  through GDR (German Democratic Republic) archives of short films from 1964 to  1989, films that we would have never seen at the time here in Western Germany.  Sometimes even the eastern Germans were not allowed to see the films. One example  was Einmal in der Woche schrein (Yelling  Once per Week) directed by Günter Jordan, a documentary about teenaged boys who  sit around predicting their futures and discussing the freedom to decide. They  ride skateboards and scooters, in fact, act like any young person from the  West. As a result, the 1982 film was forbidden in its original country of East  Germany until 1988, when it was finally shown.

A second category was Synchronicities, a term created  by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung to describe a situation of “temporally  correlating events, which are not connected in a casual relationship but can be  perceived and understood as connected and in relation with each other.”  Got it? Both the festival catalog and  Wikipedia have long-winded descriptions of synchronicities, which one may or  may not understand. Synchronicity, as applied to films, means that the music  may or may not have anything to do with the action. This practice often appears  in animation and is called “Mickey Mousing.” This Synchronicities section  showed 16 films from 1946 to 2008. They ran from just over one minute to 10  minutes and came from Germany, the U.S. and Japan. The music was independent of  the action, which was most often animated. The music could have been just  sounds like heartbeats or classical, e.g., from Schubert, or songs from the  Beatles, as well as jazz and electronic music. Some of the films were hard to  watch or listen to, but, no matter: they were only three minutes. It was  enormously interesting to experience a new direction which occupies film  makers.

The International Short Film festival in Hamburg runs  on a financial shoestring, and the results are quite amazing, due to the  enthusiasm of the co-workers led by Sven Schwarz and Birgit Glombitza. Native English-speakers  have no problems understanding the English subtitles, as well as English  translations for all information in the 200-page catalog. There was also a pocket-sized  program for quick reference. Naturally, the website has all  information, in English and German, which includes the prize winners, as well  as a wonderful archive of photos: see one of me and my colleague Shelly Schoeneshoefer  at the awards ceremony, taken by their photographer, Zenia Zarafu. Do not miss  the 33rd Short Film Festival in Hamburg on June 6-12, 2017.