54th Viennale - Vienna International Film Festival
Austria, October 20 - November 2 2016
The Viennale, the most important international film festival in Austria, is somehow a festival sui generis, of its own kind. It is, essentially, a festival of festivals, with few world premieres, usually Austrian films, and some international premieres. The Viennale is, at the same time, a hard-core art house festival, with very few crowd pleasers; witha handful of the grand films of the year like Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper or Damian Chazelle’s La La Land, which was this year’s closing film. Or, as the festival describes itself: “It offers a cross-section of bold filmmaking which stands apart from the aesthetics of mainstream conventionality…”
With a duration of almost two weeks the Viennale lasts longer than most festivals; it shows a huge programme with around 300 films, about half of which are fiction and the other half documentaries in its main program. It attracts over 90,000 visitors, mostly a young audience from Vienna and elsewhere. Viennale16 marked director Hans Hurch’s 20th anniversary at the fest, and he will stay for two further editions. In his emotional closing speech, after the prize giving ceremony, he said: “I don’t know to whom we owe it, but seldom has a Viennale edition received such positive and partly enthusiastic feedback from both audiences and international critics.”
The Viennale is well known for its retrospectives, organized in collaboration with the Vienna Film Museum. This year’s retrospective, “A Second Life – Themes and Variations in Film”, with over 60 productions from the silent era up to today, continued after the festival and can be seen until the end of November in the cinema at the Vienna Filmmuseum. Other retrospectives at the Viennale included tributes to US-actor, Christopher Walken, US-director, Kenneth Lonergan, and US-experimental filmmaker, Peter Hutton, who died this year. Several special programs focussed on Cuban propaganda films from the 1960s, on the Austrian émigré and filmmaker, Robert Land, and on French filmmaker, Jacques Rivette, who also died in 2016.
Traditionally, the Viennale is not a star vehicle and invites more film directors. Attending this year’s festival were art house regulars including; John Carpenter, Abel Ferrara, Terence Davies, Luc Dardenne, Olivier Assayas, Albert Serra, Julien Temple and Cristi Puiu. A highlight of this year’s fest was a visit from US-artist Patti Smith, a friend to director Hans Hurch. She showed an exhibition with photos taken at earlier Vienna visits and performed a sold-out concert in the biggest cinema venue at the festival.
The Viennale has, unlike other festivals, no film sections; the programme is simply divided into Fiction, Documentaries and Shorts. And there are no juries and no prizes, the only exceptions being prizes for Austrian films. Thus the FIPRESCI prize is the only international distinction of the Viennale. This year’s FIPRESCI jury with Petra Erdmann (Austria), Suncica Unevska (Macedonia) and Beat Glur (Switzerland) awarded the critic’s prize to Bodkin Ras by Kaweh Modiri (Netherlands/Belgium).(Beat Glur, edited by Tara Judah)