Besides its medium length, the film fulfils no market-oriented expectations whatsoever and I am happy that one will be able to find such experiments in the newcomer section, films that nonetheless tell a tight, interesting story and, in all their technical perfection, simply belong on the big screen. For the young generation alternative perspectives are difficult to realise, because the filmmakers are so dependent on financing and are often glad to meet conventional expectations of film, which allow them to reach a large audience. It is surely easier for established filmmakers to secure funding for less mainstream projects.
How do the number and quality of film entries compare to other years? Were some decisions especially hard to make? Would you have liked to have had more programme slots at your disposal? Or did the selection of films match the planned scope of the programme?
2011 was an exceptionally strong year with a very large selection of good films. Especially in comparison to last year’s talk of crisis, when people were saying nothing was getting produced. It looks very different with these German newcomers: we have more remarkable films in terms of both content and aesthetics available to us than I experienced in recent years. Especially long, convincing documentaries and features beyond the usual TV format. Extraordinary examples of these are the three feature films: a ZDF Kleines Fernsehspiel production (Lollipop Monster), a WDR co-production (Die Ausbildung) and a SWR co-production (Der Preis).
Self-discovery and artistic maturity
Are these filmmakers still finding their identity or do they already have an individually developed formal language of their own?
It is surprising to see how mature these works are. Usually there are two types of newcomer filmmakers: the ones who are trying things out and have the courage to try to discover themselves. And then there are those who know exactly what they want. Here, for example, I think of Die Ausbildung (The Education, D: Dirk Lütter) or Utopia Ltd. (D: Sandra Trostel). This maturity is rooted in the biographies of the directors: Dirk Lütter and Sandra Trostel worked for years as a cameraman and a cutter, respectively, before making their own debut films. They know their craft and therefore know exactly what they want to show. A further example is Ziska Riemann with her debut Lollipop Monster. She worked as a comic artist primarily and she brings these influences into the moving picture, without Lollipop Monster ever resembling a filmed comic. She takes the medium of film and builds subtle signals from the world of comics into the film. For example, the image sometimes stops moving and a black, hand-drawn raven flies through the scene – this has an extraordinary impact and at the same time fulfils a narrative function.
An example of a filmmaker who is still trying things out would be Nicolas Steiner with his documentary Kampf der Königinnen (Battle of the Queens). This is one of the most unusual films that we have ever had in the programme. Filmed in black and white, the film focuses on a traditional ritual in the Swiss mountains: there you have the Eringer cows, cows with horns that battle for their place in hierarchies while they are out on the fields. The Swiss have turned this into a tourist spectacle. Once a year, on Mother’s Day, the cows fight each other in an arena. Battle of the Queens shows us this event from the point of view of individual protagonists who are followed by the camera. A few times the director breaks from this observational style with some dramatised moments. The grand finale of the fighting cows, for example, is presented to us in slow motion with orchestral music made with cowbells, alpine horns, etc. Here the filmmaker is testing himself in a very positive sense.