55th Oberhausen International Short Film Festival
Germany, April 30 - May 5 2009
Not many cities in the world live so completely with their film festivals as Oberhausen. The signs and directions to the festival palace are a regular part of the traffic signalization in the city, and you find additional signs directing you to all the festivals venues in the center. Obviously, the festival had cultivated its audience in the past half century and almost all the screenings were sold out. For shorts films this is not a usual occurrence.
This year the festival kicked off its 55th edition with an International Competition program consisting of 51 films representing 31 countries which were selected from 4,433 entries from 91 countries. The Chinese Cry Me a River (by Jia Zhang-ke) and the Thailand film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (by Apichatpong Weerasethakul) were the most prominent films in this competition, conspicuous in that both had a somewhat mixed quality. The films varied from features, documentaries to animations and experimental, and were on different formats, from 35mm to DV.
Weerasethaku’s A Letter to Uncle Boonmee won the Grand Prize of the City of Oberhausen and 7,500 Euros.
The festival also had four other competition programs — the German Competition with 25 films, the new North Rhine-Westphalia Competition with 10 films, the Children and Youth Cinema and the MuVi music video competition.
The theme of the festival this year was “Unreal Asia”, a rather curatorial concept about the contemporary narratives of the Asian video art, put together in 10 various programs.
This year’s special treat was the complete retrospective of the Japanese avant-garde director Matsumoto Toshio (from his first film in 1955 to the last in 1989), whose career of more than three decades left a key influence on the contemporary Japanese documentary, fiction and avant-garde film. This was the first time that his complete oeuvre was shown outside Japan, and Mr. Matsumoto was in Oberhausen to personally present his work.
There were four other retrospectives in the festival: the Mexican author Nicolás Echevarría, the Russian group Factory of Found Clothes, the German filmmaker Herbert Fritsch and the Sarajevo Documentary School. (Marina Kostova)