Oldenburg Film Festival: 31st Anniversary

By the point most festivals enter their third decade, they’ve settled into a well-known groove the place youthful riot has given method to respectability and the occasion gives few actual surprises.

The Oldenburg Movie Competition, which turns 31 this 12 months, remains to be ready for that respectability label. However Germany’s leading indie cine fest has the riot half down pat, persevering with to have fun the rebels and rogues, the forgotten masters, and the up-and-coming underdogs of impartial moviemaking.

Forward of this 12 months’s occasion, THR presents an inventory of the (a minimum of) 31 issues any Oldenburg beginner ought to know. 

1. The Dates The thirty first Oldenburg Competition runs Sept. 11-15, 2024.

2. The placement The small metropolis (inhabitants 170,000) of Oldenburg, Germany, a medieval city based in 1108.

3. The inspiration Oldenburg was launched in 1994 as Germany’s reply to Sundance. It got here within the midst of the ’90s indie movie growth — Pulp Fiction had simply received the Palme d’Or in Cannes and Oldenburg’s inaugural lineup included Spike Lee’s Crooklyn and Peter Medak’s Romeo Is Bleeding, starring Gary Oldman.

4. The founder Torsten Neumann based and has run Oldenburg from the beginning, staying true to his impartial roots by programming films that proceed to problem conference and mainstream cinema, whether or not artwork home or industrial.

5. Tips on how to get there Oldenburg is about half an hour from Bremen. Fly in (or take a practice from Hamburg or Berlin) and it’s a fast hop from there.

6. The fee Oldenburg fees $54 (50 euros) for characteristic movie submissions and $27 (25 euros) for shorts submitted by the Might 24 deadline. (It prices $48 if you may get them in by March 29, $75 for late submissions from Might 25 to June 14).

7. The State Theatre Oldenburg’s imposing 18th-century opera home is the epic location the place the competition holds its centerpiece premieres, as nicely the opening and shutting ceremonies.

8. The events Oldenburg’s bashes are legendary. Yearly, the competition holds a secret blowout in an undisclosed location, often a retrofitted constructing someplace within the metropolis. High spots have included an previous citadel, an underground parking storage, an deserted police station (“which felt like John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13,” says Neumann,) and the gymnasium of the city’s native elementary.

9. Indie celebration Oldenburg audiences love their indie cinema, wherever it hails from. Final 12 months’s “Spirit of Cinema” award winner was Petrus Cariry’s Brazilian drama Heavier Is the Sky. John Connors’ The Black Guelph, a criminal offense thriller set within the Irish Travellers neighborhood, took one of the best movie honor in 2022 (and secured a U.S. launch by way of Slated.com two years later). And Pet Love, a darkish romance story from Canadian director Michael Maxxis starring Paz de la Huerta (Boardwalk EmpireEnter the Void) and Hopper (son of Sean) Penn, took the highest prize in 2020.

10. Deborah Kara Unger The Canadian actress (The Sport13Silent Hill) first attended Oldenburg in 2010. Due to an in a single day romance turned 14-year-long relationship with competition director Neumann, she’s by no means left and is now an inseparable a part of the Oldenburg group.

11. German breakouts Neumann has a confirmed monitor report for recognizing German impartial movies. Jan-Ole Gerster’s 2012 debut, A Espresso in Berlin, swept Oldenburg’s prime prizes, taking the German Independence award, viewers award, and one of the best actor prize for star Tom Schilling, earlier than happening to triumph at Germany’s equal to the Oscars, the German Movie Awards, or Lolas, the next 12 months. The 2023 finest movie winner, Ayşe Polat’s Within the Blind Spot, a twisty documentary-style conspiracy thriller set in modern-day Turkey, adopted its finest movie win in Oldenburg with Lolas for finest director and finest screenplay.

Courtesy of the Oldenburg Movie Competition

12. Cult heroes For its retrospectives and lifelong achievement awards, Oldenburg prefers the deep cuts, honoring the shamefully forgotten or ignored. Amongst them are the likes of administrators Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I), Michael Wadleigh (WoodstockWolfen), and Ted Kotcheff (Weekend at Bernie’s, First Blood).

13. The Audacity Award Most likely the best of Oldenburg’s honors, this prize is giving to essentially the most “authentic, daring and audacious movie” within the official choice that pushes the boundaries between style cinema and the avant-garde. Current winners embrace Dominik Krawiecki and Patrycja Planik’s black-and-white, experimental satire Faggots, about gay males who’re the final survivors of a mysterious plague; and Jérôme Vandewattyne’s The Belgian Wave, a Nineteen Nineties-set psychedelic drama impressed by a real-life outbreak of UFO sightings in Belgium.

14. Trailer spoofs Rather than self-important promotion, Oldenburg yearly releases a competition trailer spoofing a significant blockbuster or cult film. Earlier targets embrace the Matrix and Quick & Livid franchises, in addition to Apocalypse Now, which featured the follicly challenged Neumann as Marlon Brando, tongue firmly in cheek.

15. DIY Movies Again in 2001, annoyed by the dearth of German indie movie custom, Oldenburg determined to create its personal, backing 99EuroFilms, a short-film omnibus venture of 12 five-minute films — every shot on a mini-DV digital camera on a 99 euro ($106) price range. Oldenburg repeated the experiment in 2003. This 12 months, the competition is teaming up with Vandewattyne to supply 10 brief films directed by 10 Oldenburg alumni, impressed by Vandewattyne’s new digital music album.

16. Producers get respect Oldenburg likes to shine a lightweight on the individuals behind the scenes that make indie movie occur. Former Stanley Kubrick producer James B. Harris (The Killing, LolitaPaths of Glory) was honored in 1996; the competition’s 2017 retrospective was devoted to maverick producer Edward R. Pressman (American Psycho, Unhealthy LieutenantThe Crow); and Jen Gatien (For EllenMidnight Solar) was feted final 12 months.

17. Jail screenings The competition holds an annual screening and gala on the metropolis’s high-security jail, the JVA. This Knastkino (Jail Cinema), deliberate as a one-off in 2006, is now an Oldenburg custom, the place invited friends sit facet by facet with hardened (however well-behaved) prisoners.

18.The Platform Oldenburg has its personal VOD service, sarcastically named The Platform, which celebrates one of the best of the competition’s first three many years. “It’s a sanctuary for real feelings, unfiltered voices, and untamed narratives that problem typical norms,” says Neumann.

19. The season’s coolest films Alongside its world premieres, Oldenburg’s choice options one of the best, or a minimum of the weirdest, films from the competition circuit. Current highlights embrace Julia Ducournau’s gender-and-genre-bending Palme d’Or winner Titane, and Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden from Cannes; Michael Sarnoski’s Nicolas Cage starrer Pig from Edinburgh, and, from Locarno, the animated characteristic Mad God from Oscar-winning particular results grasp Phil Tippett, all of which had their German premieres at Oldenburg.

20. The discoveries Oldenburg is the place you’ll be able to spot the celebrities earlier than they obtained massive. An 18-year-old Keira Knightley got here to Oldenburg for the German premiere of her 2001 characteristic The Gap, a 12 months earlier than her Bend It Like Beckham breakout. Noémie Merlant received finest actress in Oldenburg in 2016 for Twisting Destiny, years earlier than the remainder of world found her in Céline Sciamma’s 2019 Cannes Competition hit Portrait of a Woman on Hearth

21. Reside gigs Whether or not it’s Butch Walker giving his finest Johnny Money in a jail live performance, German pop star Jan Plewka performing within the vault of an area financial institution, Asia Argento taking the stage for a jam session or Belgian trio The Experimental Tropical Blues Band rocking native pub Marvins, Oldenburg’s reside gigs are the stuff of legend.

22. Gitternet Roughly translated as “iron cage TV,” that is an in-house TV channel at Oldenburg’s high-security jail, run by the inmates. In the course of the competition, Gitternet interviews administrators and expertise, giving these inside a style of indie cinema tradition.

23. Lappan Tower The historic bell tower, in-built 1467, is certainly one of Oldenburg’s oldest landmarks, and among the many few buildings to have survived a hearth in 1676 that razed town.

24. Directorial debuts Star Trek and Roots star LeVar Burton offered his directorial debut, Attain for Me, in Oldenburg in 2008. Final 12 months, indie producer and energy agent Cassian Elwes (Dallas Consumers MembershipLee Daniels’ The Butler) offered the world premiere of Passenger C, his first flip behind the digital camera. If what you actually wish to do is direct, Oldenburg is for you. 

‘Passenger C’

Andrew Parke

25. Casablanca Kino Oldenburg’s first artwork home cinema, situated on Johannisstrasse, embodies the competition’s indie spirit, programming auteur and outside-the-mainstream films year-round.

26. Somtow Sucharitkul The world of classical music is aware of Sucharitkul as a groundbreaking Thai conductor and composer, however for competition followers, Sucharitkul is the author and star of The Maestro, a B-movie schlock horror story that received Oldenburg’s spirit of cinema award in 2021. Since then, Sucharitkul has been a competition common, typically attending with members of his Siam Sinfonietta youth orchestra. 

27. Activism Oldenburg prefers to place its films earlier than its politics, however has been recognized to step up when required. In 2013, the competition shone a highlight on exiled Iranian filmmaker Mania Akbari (From Tehran to London), who fled her nation after a crackdown on regime-critical filmmakers. In 2021, it held the world premiere of Myanmar characteristic What Occurred to the Wolf? whereas the movie’s star, Eaindra Kyaw Zin, was nonetheless in jail for anti-government exercise and its director, Na Gyi, was in hiding (the place he stays to today).

28. Lounge premieres In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down public occasions worldwide, Oldenburg discovered a method to maintain premieres in an online-only world by getting native competition followers to host mini-galas in their own homes (German COVID rules allowed for small teams to collect in non-public residences). The administrators and stars of the invited movies walked non-public crimson carpets (full with socially distanced paparazzi) to observe their premiere collectively on the sofa and reply questions in intimate Q&As. Oldenburg streamed the entire thing reside.

29. Saturday tapas at Caldero In what’s turn into an annual competition custom, attendees collect on Saturday afternoon, post-hangover, pre-screenings, for a tapas (or paella) top-up on the metropolis’s legendary Spanish restaurant, situated proper subsequent to Metropolis Corridor.

30. Seymour Cassel The late, great actor, whose profession in indie cinema stretched from Seventies John Cassavetes options to Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, turned Oldenburg’s largest booster after being honored with a competition retrospective in 2008. Oldenburg repaid him by renaming its appearing prize the Seymour Cassel Award in his honor.

31. Nicolas Cage! Oscar winner Nicolas Cage might be the largest star to stroll Oldenburg’s cobbled streets, attending the competition to obtain its 2016 lifetime achievement honor. The Face/Off and Wild at Coronary heart actor went off-piste, testing an Oldenburg dive bar and ingesting into the night time with an area bowling membership. 

Nicolas Cage on the 2016 Oldenburg Movie Competition.

Tim Bruening

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