The 63rd International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen showed once again how rich – and practically unknown among the wider public – the world of short films is. Due to the mode of distribution, which favours features and commercial ads over shorts, the form disappeared from cinemas about half a century ago onto the small TV market; the best opportunity to see the most interesting shorts are therefore specialised film festivals. Oberhausen is, of course, famous for its 1962 manifesto, but the festival is very up-to-date and sensitive to contemporary developments of film art.
The main competition comprised 56 titles, which consisted of various forms: fiction, documentaries, animation and essay films. The variety of forms, styles and topics guaranteed by the wide selection committee made it a real fest for short film lovers, because the scope of the film menu that was offered did not let you get bored. What’s more and even rarer is that even the opening ceremony made no- one yawn in expectation of the first reception. The opening speech of Lars Henrik Gass, full of irony and sharp comments about the contemporary film industry and about stricter public financing of film culture, was an excellent introduction to the world of original, uncompromising and courageous films from Oberhausen’s main competition.
Apart from the main competition there was a separate German competition (with 22 titles), a few special sections for children, and seven retrospectives of distinguished film-makers in Profile sections. The members of the international jury for the main competition were Jan Toomik, Estonian artist and film-maker; Ekaterina Degot, an art writer and curator based in Germany; Peter Nestler, Swedish actor and film-maker; Kathrin Rhomberg, Austrian art curator; and Chi-hui Yang, a curator based in New York. The composition of the main jury marks Oberhausen’s specificity, which was described by Art Monthly last year as having “more in common with a visual arts biennale than a standard film festival.” The awarded films were excellent pieces of film-making with an additional dimension of rare originality in form. Their Principal Prize of the City of Oberhausen went to the Chinese documentary Late Summer (Qiu) by Yi Cui. 500,000 Years (500,000 Pee) by Chai Siris from Thailand was awarded the second Principal Prize. The third e-flux Prize went to the Chinese animation Animal Year by Zhong Su. Tower XYZ by Ayo Akingbade from Great Britain and Borderhole by Amber Bemak and Nadia Granados from Mexico were honoured with Special Mentions from the international jury.
The first prize of the German competition jury from the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport of North Rhine-Westphalia went to the documentary They Just Come and Go (Oni samo dolaze i odlaze)by Boris Poljak from Croatia. This jury honoured with the second prize the film Earthly (Opposite from Heaven) (Terrenal. En oposición al cielo) by Ivan Jose Murgic Capriotti and Sofia Lena Monardo from Argentina, which is also a documentary. The jury’s special mentions went to Animal Year by Zhong Su and Nyo Vweta Nafta, the virtuoso documentary by Ico Costa (Portugal / Mozambique).
The FIPRESCI jury decided to give its prize to Off Takes (Zheng Pian Zhi Wai) by Hao Jingban from China. The review of the film will be published on the site separately. The film is masterful and inventive, a self-conscious movie about the nature of images and the inaccessibility of the past mediated by them. (Marcin Adamczak, edited by Birgit Beumers)