Schwerin: The Town and the Festival

in 33rd Schwerin Filmkunstfest

by Geri Krebs

The town and the festival

The 33rd Filmkunstfest Schwerin took place in the capital city of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern from April 30th until May 5th. The festival, founded in 1991 and under Volker Kufahl’s artistic direction since 2013, is the biggest audience film festival in Eastern Germany. This 2024 edition of the festival—which traditionally presents films from German-speaking countries in its competitive sections—included a selection of about 100 titles.

With only 100,000 inhabitants, Schwerin, the smallest capital city of a federal state of Germany, is a lovely city located on four lakes – three natural and one artificial (the “Pfaffenteich “in the center) – and graced with an old town mostly spared from World War II bombings. Spared from the destructions caused by the communist regime in the name of socialist architecture in other East German cities, Schwerin remains an idyllic place. The pearl of this idyll, its landmark and selling point, is the Schwerin Castle. This fairytale castle, whose silhouette has also appeared in Hollywood films, was constructed around 1850 on the base of a 1000-year-old castle. It is situated on an Island in front of one of the main squares of the town, called “Alter Garten,” and is surrounded by other imposing buildings constructed in the 19th century, like the state theatre of Mecklenburg, the museum, and the state chancellery. It is, therefore, not surprising that Schwerin applied to UNESCO a few years ago as a world cultural heritage site. UNESCO will decide on the application this summer. One reason for applying is that the port city of Wismar on the Baltic Sea, only 30 kilometers away – one of the locations for Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Nosferatu 100 years ago – gained its UNESCO World Heritage status in 2002.

The films

Every year in Schwerin, a country is invited to participate in one of the non-competitive sections. This year, the invited country was Spain; the opening film was the German premiere of the satirical housekeeper drama Calladita (The Quiet Maid), the first feature film by the young Spanish director Miguel Paus. While this section of the host country presented another eight new Spanish feature films in the following days (including well-known names such as the latest films by Isabel Coixet and Fernando Trueba), the festival paid homage to one of the great cinématographers of German cinema, one who made film history: Volker Schlöndorff. The 85-year-old director, scriptwriter, and writer was present in Schwerin, not only to receive the Honorary award for his life’s work, the “Golden Ox “, but also to introduce some of his films and read from his autobiography. Perhaps one of the most emotional moments of the whole festival was when, during the award night, David Bennent made the laudatory speech for Volker Schlöndorff. The Swiss-born actor was 12 years old when he played the leading role in Volker Schlöndorff’s Oscar- and Palme d’Or-Winning film Die Blechtrommel and he was 28 years later in Ulzhan – Das vergessene Licht again playing a leading role in one of the master’s films. David Bennett said, among other things: ‘You are younger, wilder, and more daring than so many young people today.’

As expected, the big winner in the main competition was Andreas Dresens’s highly emotional period picture about young resistance members against the nazi-regime, In Liebe, eure Hilde. Aside from the Flying Ox, a price endowed with 10,000 euros, Desens’ film won the best acting performance in the feature film competition for Liv Lisa Fries performance. The prize is endowed with 3,500 euros and is donated by LOTTO Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Her partner, Johannes Hegemann, received the Young Talent Award for the best acting performance in the feature film competition. That prize comes with 2,500 euros donated by Stadtwerke Schwerin.

The Fipresci Jury honored a film that was not such a crowd favorite: Verbrannte Erde by Thomas Arslan. The film tells an old story: A gangster comes after many years of jail, takes contact with some old accomplices, and plans a big coup; the coup is successful, but the loot distribution ends in a bloodbath—the End. The gangster’s name, Trojan, refers to a film Thomas Arslan made 14 years earlier: Im Schatten (2010). Misel Maticevic played Trojan in this film, and Verbrannte Erde is like the second part of Arslan’s Trojan trilogy. What particularly impressed the Fipresci jury was how director and scriptwriter Thomas Arslan created in Verbrannte Erde a taciturn thriller with elements of film noir and heist movie, something that resulted in a genre film at its finest in an incredibly gently flowing somnambulic rhythm – and how he used the aesthetics of a painting by Caspar David Friedrich – the object of the successful coup – and translated it perfectly into a cinematic language.


Geri Krebs
Edited by Anne-Christine Loranger