The 32nd Max Ophüls Festival – The Power of the Class of 2011
With its 39,000 visitors and 1,281 accredited guests the Max Ophüls Festival proved once again that even in its 32nd year it is still worth taking an in-depth look, for both audiences and film business insiders, at what up-and-coming young talent in the German-speaking film world has produced. 158 films were shown – and only in Saarbrücken, where the focus is on newcomer films, does it become clear what subjects the up-and-coming generation are into and what their views are.
The trend at the moment among this group of young filmmakers is not so much towards coming-of-age stories. Although certain related issues are dealt with like the question of “Where do I belong?” or the idea of the family as a sanctuary, a place of trust, in an ever more insecure world, the vision of many of these young directors extends way beyond their own sensitivities. There were, for example, films about growing old and sickness like Armadingen and Vergiss’ Dein Ende or the collapse of the affluent society like Inside America or the decline of a Ukrainian mining town like The other Chelsea (won the Best Documentary Prize). They were not just empathetic and nuanced, but also surprised audiences at times with their quirky humour.
The dominant theme – immigration
The dominant theme at this year’s festival however was immigration. For example, Verena Freytag’s entry Abgebrannt – about Pelin, a German-born Turkish single mother with three children living on German unemployment benefit (“Hartz IV”), who burns out while struggling to raise her kids and battling with the authorities. In the episodic film 180’ Cihan Inan uses four parallel running stories to tell, amongst other things, of the encounter between a Turkish father and a German mother whose children were involved in a car accident. Hüllen by Maria Müller recalls the case of Ernel Zeynelabidin, who, as a mother of six and a campaigner for the first Islamic kindergarten in Germany, suddenly, after thirty years, decides to remove her veil. In the short film Zwischen Himmel und Erde two African brothers risk their lives by stowing away on a plane’s undercarriage in an attempt to get to Germany.
The festival’s underlying theme however was also perceived from some very different viewpoints, as was the case with Adopted, a film about Germans who become members of large African families in the hope of finding what they did not get from their own families: warmth, support and social bonding. Flucht in die andere Richtung is about Europeans who set off for Morocco every year to spend the winter there on a campsite.
A Max Ophüls Prize for “The Albanian”
The jury at this year’s festival was made up of director Dani Levy and last year’s winner Maximilian Erlenwein, along with actors Gottfried John and Cosma Shiva Hagen. For them it was clear that the winner of this year’s Max Ophüls Prize, worth 18,000 euros, was The Albanian by director Johannes Naber. It is the story of a man who manages to make it to Germany in order to earn enough money to be able to marry his bride back at home in Albania. As an illegal immigrant and not a clue about the language it soon becomes clear to him that he is not going to be able to achieve his aims by just doing casual work. His undertakings become more and more risky and dangerous. “Although it was a year with strikingly many socially and politically relevant entries, The Albanian with its compelling, credible and emotional narrative was for us particularly convincing,” the jury argued.
Accompanying young talent along the professional path
Director Johannes Naber, who had already won two prizes for his film in Moscow the year before, was not just thrilled by winning the Max Ophüls Prize, but also by all the attention that was being showered on the young, German-speaking film. Furthermore, according to Naber, he had also really earned the funding. A call that is also willingly supported by the artistic directors of the festival, Gabriella Bandel and Philipp Bräuer.
According to Philipp Bräuer, the Max Ophüls Festival has established itself both in the media and in the business as the “only festival that deals exclusively with newcomer films”. The fact that the young, German-speaking film is now enjoying more attention and improving all the time is also clearly backed up by the festival’s new forms of cooperation with media like Zeit Online and DeutschlandRadio Kultur. Bräuer however would like to “see more courage” when it comes to the funding of new talent. The courage to both promote and tell (film) stories that are not so mainstream. “It is still very often the case that prefabricated expectations have to be fulfilled even by young directors’ in the first attempts at their craft, nipping any form of creativity or originality in the bud,” he says. Moreover he would also like to see more support for the second or third films made by young directors who have already proved they have talent in their first film. “Everybody wants to be there when a new talent is born, but nobody wants to accompany them along their professional path through life.
works as a journalist and author. Among other books: “Kinohits für Kids – die schönsten Kinderfilme auf DVD” (All-time Movie Favourites for Kids – The Most Beautiful Children’s Films on DVD) and “Handbuch Synchronisation – von der Übersetzung bis zum fertigen Film” (The Dubbing Manual – From the Translation to the Finished Film).
Translation: Paul McCarthy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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