A Global Festival for Locals

in 34th FilmFest Munich

by Luca Pellegrini

Each festival has its “soul”. It carves out a space in the country where it was established and in the international geography of events dedicated to the seventh art. Filmfest München celebrates 34 years of life. It does not aspire to compete with any other famous festival, but it shows an exceptional vitality, because it was born, first of all, to meet the public, who is the real protagonist, parading on the red carpet.

“It’s true,” confirms Diana Iljne, a festival director who welcomes everyone with a warm smile. “We can afford the luxury of bringing to Munich the best films in early summer for the people’s enjoyment. We have a team of recruiters who run around the world and attend all the film festivals, choosing the best movies. We are very strict in our selection. Each film must have not only interesting content, but also [interesting] form, it is for us a very important aspect. In addition, we are one of the biggest summer film festivals in Europe: the sun and the beauty of Munich all induce this pleasant sensation, and this means that people are willing to attend. Also, experts in the movie industry, critics and enthusiasts like to meet here, because they can see films that they were not able to see at Cannes or other festivals, and meet producers, directors, actors and scriptwriters.”

This means that Munich has an audience of true fans. A very young audience. Diana continues: “Our public are educated people – there are many students and, most of all, people living in the city or its surroundings. What for me is very important is that anyone can come to our Festival. Apart from the opening ceremony, you can participate as a spectator in any event: you can talk to the directors at the end of the screenings, or even walk the red carpet. This is the peculiarity of Munich: everyone can participate.”

We are in Germany, so of course the festival features many German films, mostly world premieres. All of the titles reflect on the current state of Germany, Europe and the world today, especially the films in the New German Cinema and New German Television sections. Even when they are not explicitly political, they are very engaged with the issues of our time, as with The Promise (Das versprechen) by Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger, or House Without Roof (Haus ohne dach) by Soleen Yusef.

These issues include, according to Diana, “globalization and the aging population, keeping families together. Digitalization allows films to be produced today in countries where they previously could not because of high costs: this globalization is reflected in the movies. In them, we see defenseless families: torn, confused, and this feeling is to be found in many of our movies. We are talking about population issues, often affecting the elderly and the young, the grandfather, the grandmother, and the children and grandchildren: these themes are portrayed in a passionate manner. Many films also deal with the subject of refugees and immigration.”

Toni Erdmann opened the Festival. “We are very proud to have this film for the opening night,” explains Diana. “Maren Ade, the director, graduated from the film school in Munich and had much success at the last Cannes festival. She did not win an official award, but still won the prestigious FIPRESCI Prize. This made us happy. It took a lot of courage to open with this 163-minute title, yet it has been received very, very well. It is a refined and entertaining film despite its serious subject, the difficult relationship between a father and his daughter.”

Edited by Lesley Chow