57th Mannheim-Heidelberg

Germany, November 6 - November 16 2008

The jury

Léo Soesanto (France), Miroslaw Przylipiak (Poland), K.N.T. Sastry (India), Nils Gjerstad (Norway), Susanne Schuetz (Germany)

Awarded films

How was “Germany in Autumn” this year? In the cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg, cold but not as bleak as in the film of the same name (Deutschland Im Herbst, 1977/1978), and this 57th edition of the festival — headed by Michael Kötz — did its best to comfort hearts and souls with its motto, “Living Dreams Worldwide”. Among 600 features submitted to the selection committee, 34 were selected from over 20 countries and screened in both cities over the course of the festival’s eleven days, as well as a retrospective (called “Intense Times”) dedicated to the social shifts (or yearnings for same) in late sixties and seventies, from Flower Power to Years of Lead in Germany. We were particularly charmed by one of the screening rooms in Mannheim, “Kino im Stadthaus 2”, which looks almost exactly like a conference room at the United Nations, tempting audience members to make mock-Khruschevian protests, banging their shoes on imaginary tables.

Highlighting newcomers and new “auteurs” is of course the aim of the festival, helped by the famous Mannheim Meetings, the efficient pitch sessions — much like speed-dating, but more efficient — that pair up directors with producers in an energetic, almost schoolyard ambience. For example, Lola Randl, director of the remarkable In-Between Days (Die Besucherin), was there to pitch a plot reminiscent of Henry James’ “The Wings of the Dove”.

Our jury this year was hooked by three films (out of eighteen eligible titles) in a competition dealing mostly with social consciousness, lonely women and discombobulated families. Jennifer Phang’s Half-Life is a moving, apocalyptic suburban drama (think of an Asian-American Donnie Darko, but not just that). Vincent Pluss’ The Noise in My Head (Du bruit dans la tête) cleverly portrays a group of people in transition and, much like the characters, finds the audience quickly hearing voices in their head. Ultimately, our winner was Lyne Charlebois’ Borderline (photo), with its in-your-face but nuanced approach and its heroine, intriguingly played by Isabelle Blais. (Léo Soesanto)