Forum at the Deutsches Museum
Stephen Frears and Robert Fischer
Talk with japanese directors
the brothers Dardenne (in the middle)
Iris Berben, Joseph Vilsmaier and Jürgen Vogel
Rainer Kaufmann, Petra Schmidt-Schaller and Ulrich Noethen
Moderator Klaus Eder directors about the new Asian Cinema
Kinderfilmfest with programmer Katrin Hoffmann
Julie Christie and Andreas Ströhl
Franziska Walser and Edgar Selge
Heino Ferch, Ina Weisse and Ronald Zehrfeld
Topic Sweden: Christoph Gröner and Martin Jern
Andreas Ströhl, John Malkovich and Robert Fischer
Diana Iljine and Julie Delpy
"DREAMS YOU SEE WITH OPEN EYES"
2003 was Eberhard Hauff’s final year as director of the Filmfest. After establishing the festival against all odds, he and his team continued to structure it and define it. Under Hauff’s stewardship, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN established itself as an annual cultural event in Munich and as a major platform for German and international film. To top it all off, a visiting celebrity brought things full circle, back to the festival’s beginnings, as Hauff noted in the foreword to that year’s catalogue:
“When the Internationale Münchner Filmwochen GmbH was solemnly established in January 1979 in the Old City Hall of Munich, actress Geraldine Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s daughter, took part in the festivities as virtual godmother. But the Filmfest didn’t actually take place for the first time until 1983, after a twelve-week marathon of preparations. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Geraldine Chaplin returns to Munich as the Filmfest’s guest of honor this year to receive the CineMerit Award for her lifetime achievement. In an homage in her honor, we will screen some of her most beautiful films.”
During Hauff’s tenure, the Filmfest regularly took an in-depth look at eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In 2003, Hauff and his team dedicated a tribute to Russian actor Oleg Yankovsky, thus bringing things full circle once again: NOSTALGIA by Andrei Tarkovsky, with Oleg Yankovsky as the male lead, had been screened at the first Filmfest in 1983.
Many other distinguished guests attended Hauff’s farewell. British behavioral scientist Jane Goodall came for the German premiere of Dave Lickley’s documentary JANE GOODALL’S WILD CHIMPANZEES. Senta Berger and Michael Verhoeven, who along with their entire family were portrayed in Felix Moeller’s DIE VERHOEVENS, didn’t have as far to travel as Goodall. Ulla Rapp had also placed several documentaries in the American Independents section; these included Kenneth Bowser’s EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS, based on the nonfiction book of the same title by Peter Biskind, which dealt with the wild cinema of 1970s New Hollywood. Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese also explored that era in their film A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE.
Hauff himself had most recently curated the television section, which had featured Senta Berger in the role of Gerdi, an assertive cab driver, in a special screening of DIE SCHNELLE GERDI UND DIE HAUPTSTADT. Following Majid Majidi, the Kinderfilmfest welcomed another Iranian director, Mohammad Ali Talebi. Recent films from the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro were screened in a special section. Jazz films such as Scorsese’s NEW YORK, NEW YORK were given open-air screenings.
In cooperation with the Haus der Kunst under its newly appointed director Chris Dercon, honors were given to (film) artist Ulrike Ottinger and video artist Christian Jankowski. For the second time, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN presented numerous works by German video artists and experimental filmmakers. A special competition for young filmmakers was held for the 25,000-euro Experimental Film Promotional Award sponsored by VG Bild-Kunst.
The motto of Hauff’s final festival was, to quote Agnès Varda, “Dreams with Open Eyes”. This was in reference to the experience of cinema itself, but in creating the Filmfest, Hauff had created an entire festival that allowed people to spend a whole week indulging in dreams while nonetheless remaining wide awake.
THE NEW FESTIVAL DIRECTOR: ANDREAS STRÖHL
Even prior to Hauff’s last festival, it was clear that Andreas Ströhl would be his successor. “In 2002, the four shareholders of the Filmfest began looking for a successor to Eberhard Hauff,” Ströhl recalls today, “but they didn’t want to advertise the position and be flooded with applications. So they asked several individuals to each create a ten-page concept for updating the film festival. Whoever could present the most convincing concept would be invited for an interview. BR and SPIO searched within their own ranks, and the mayor and the finance minister each asked people they trusted.”
On behalf of Mayor Christian Ude, producer and film distributor Theo Hinz invited Ströhl to submit a concept. “Theo and I knew each other fleetingly; his son and I had been in the same class at school. I had previously volunteered at the festival in Karlovy Vary and founded a small festival in Prague, but mainly I oversaw the Film Department at the Goethe-Institut headquarters and already knew a lot of filmmakers and people from the industry. I created a concept without really expecting to be successful with it. But then I was not only invited for an interview; I was actually selected. I spoke to the board of the Goethe-Institut. They agreed to give me a five-year leave of absence. That’s how I became director of the Filmfest.”
During his tenure at the Filmfest, Ströhl was considered a “soft-spoken man” (SZ), a devotee of film who, after taking over the helm, brought in such guests as Abbas Kiarrostami, the Dardenne brothers, and, right at the beginning, the brothers Aki and Mika Kaurismäki. Ströhl’s first acts in office included streamlining the program, particularly with regard to the TV series, and establishing the “Movie Mile”, which included the cinemas in the Forum am Deutschen Museum. “All cinemas are easy to reach on foot along the ‘Movie Mile’ traversing Munich’s Isar River in front of the world-famous German Museum,” Ströhl announced in the foreword to the Filmfest 2004 catalogue, adding, “There are more venues for socializing: Filmfest’s own Surf Lounge in the Gasteig will be open from dusk to dawn. The closing night party on July 3 will also be open to the general public, weather permitting on the terrace of the Gasteig.”
As a special Bavarian treat for the guests, Ströhl invited them to take a rafting trip on the Isar River, which was to become an annual event (except during the pandemic). Here you can read Ströhl’s account of the trip’s beginnings and the merry times on board the raft.
Four years later, in 2008, Ströhl announced a rejuvenation of the Filmfest team, although some established curators such as Ulrich Maass and Ulla Rapp would initially stay on. Despite various European and World Soccer Championships being held in the summer parallel to the Filmfest, Ströhl was able to report record attendance again and again. In addition to Aki and Mika Kaurismäki, to whom a retrospective was dedicated, he welcomed Alan Parker to Munich as the recipient of the CineMerit Award in his first year. Over the next seven years, numerous personalities of German and international cinema attended the festival, where they were honored with retrospectives and/or the CineMerit Award for their services to cinema.
Ströhl’s tenure saw the continuation of popular sections such as Ulla Rapp’s American Indies and the Visiones Latinos curated by Florian Borchmeyer. Robert Fischer continued to curate a section of recent French films, and there were also isolated focuses on films from Italy (2005), central Europe (2006), and Québec (2006 and 2009). Asian cinema was also packaged into sections from year to year and given such titles as Young Asian Cinema (2004), New Asian Cinema (2007), and The Year of the Dragon (2008). The year 2005 saw a focus on Japanese cinema, including two retrospectives of films by Keisuke Kinoshita and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Starting in 2009, there was a Focus on the Far East curated by Bernhard Karl and Christoph Gröner; Gröner also curated a focus on Sweden in 2011.
Until 2003, the High Hopes Award, sponsored by the Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film- und Fernsehrechten (GWFF), was presented at the Filmfest. Four years later, DZ Bank sponsored the CineVision Award for an innovative first or second work from the International Program for the first time. Since 2012 there has been a separate CineVision section, in which first and second films by young directors are shown. In 2012, Senator Entertainment replaced DZ Bank as the sponsor. The initial jury members were Joachim Król, Alexandra Kordes, and Sönke Wortmann. In 2015, Wild Bunch became the award sponsor, and in 2016 GWFF. Since 2017, MPLC Deutschland GmbH (Motion Picture Licensing Company) has sponsored the CineVision Award with 15,000 euros in prize money.
The Audience Award was introduced in 2004. Everyone attending the Filmfest can vote for their favorite film among those screened at the festival. Since 2016, this award has been sponsored by Bayern 2 and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. In recent years, the films chosen by the audience have included the documentary KEEP SURFING (2009), the drama ALL THREE OF US (2016), and FOR SAMA (2019), which was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary.
NEw german cinema
During the Ströhl era, the Filmfest continued to screen well-curated highlights of the upcoming year in both cinema and television, by established directors as well as by up-and-coming filmmakers. The cinema section curated by Ulrich Maass included: MARSEILLE by Angela Schanelec and DIE FETTEN JAHRE SIND VORBEI by Hans Weingartner (both 2004), FALSCHER BEKENNER by Christoph Hochhäusler and SCHLÄFER by Benjamin Heisenberg (both 2005), WER FRÜHER STIRBT, IST LÄNGER TOT by Marcus H. Rosenmüller and WINTERREISE by Hans Steinbichler (both 2006), AM ENDE KOMMEN TOURISTEN by Robert Thalheim and BESTE ZEIT, also by Rosenmüller (both 2007), DAS FREMDE IN MIR by Emily Atef and WOLKE NEUN by Andreas Dresen (both 2008), with Dresen’s WHISKEY MIT WODKA following the very next year. DER LETZTE SCHÖNE HERBSTTAG by Ralf Westhoff (2010) and HELL by Tim Fehlbaum (2011) were both made by directors who were later invited back to the Filmfest.
For three years, from 2004 to 2006, the section of German TV movies was curated by André Zoch. He was succeeded by Ulrike Frick, who had previously edited the Filmfest magazine. Upon becoming a curator in 2007, she wrote in her essay for the catalogue:
“The German TV movie section has, since its considerable downsizing several years ago, become one of the festival’s most distinctive showcases. Acclaimed directors and daring newcomers, fabulous actors, exciting scripts, top-notch DPs and film editors prove once again this year that less is more and that German TV movies are not derivative but serious platforms in their own right for outstanding filmmakers.”
Marie-Luise Schramm and Hans Weingartner
Recipients of the Director’s Promotional Award: Meike Hauck & Matthias Luthardt, Jördis Triebel and Marcus H. Rosenmüller
Sibel Kekilli, Hans Steinbichler and Andreas Ströhl
Emily Atef (left) and friends
Recipients of the Director’s Promotional Award (left to right, holding awards): Christoph Hochhäusler, Ralf Westhoff, Ulrike Arnold, and Jochen Strodthoff
Recipient of the Promotional Award for Best Director: Tim Fehlbaum
FILms for children and young people
Partway into the Ströhl era, the Kinderfilmfest, too, saw a change at the helm. In 2005, Katrin Hoffmann replaced the three-person curatorial team of Hans Strobel, Christel Strobel, and Gudrun Lukasz-Aden. In her first year, Hoffmann organized a Youth Film Fest alongside the Kinderfilmfest, screening such films as TURTLES CAN FLY by Iranian-Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi and a section of Japanese anime that included SPIRITED AWAY. In the two years following, entries from the main program were given a fresh screening to young audiences as films for those “Under 18”.
In 1996, a late-night section of boundary-pushing, bizarre, erotic, and violent films was introduced at the festival and labeled “Off Limits”. The following year, that section no longer existed. It was, however, revived under a new title in 2006. Selected films from the program which had a very dark side were screened — in a manner familiar from other festivals — as “Midnight Movies”. These included such films as Park Chan-wook’s SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE and the Spanish psychological thriller AUSENTES/THE ABSENT by Daniel Calparsoro. In contrast to the brief experiment with “Off Limits”, “Midnight Movies” stayed on.
After hours, starting at 10 p.m., was also a time for the open-air screenings in the courtyard of the Gasteig. Part of the audience came specifically for the free screenings, while others, passing by on the street, were enticed by the images flickering on a screen placed near the steps to the courtyard. Each year, films were chosen on a particular theme or with a recurring motif; there seemed to be no limit to the imagination. But while “Jazz in the Movies” (2003), “Surf’s Up” (a collection of surfing movies, 2004), and “Movie Pirates” (2006) were rather self-explanatory, it was hard to grasp the theme of “Being” (2010).
“Being as a movie theme: a rather silly idea” was something that even Andreas Ströhl noted in the Filmfest magazine. “What should films portray if not that which is?” The selection ranged from classics such as TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942) by Ernst Lubitsch to Spike Jonze’s BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999) and THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2001) by the Coen brothers.
Open-air screening at the Gasteig Forum.
STRÖHL'S final year at the festival
After eight years as director of the Filmfest, Andreas Ströhl chose to return to the Goethe-Institut, where he headed the Culture and Information Department. In 2011, he said goodbye with a festival that once again featured a number of international guests of honor. John Malkovich and Otar Iosseliani were each presented the CineMerit Award, while Roy Andersson, a Swedish director specializing in quirky films featuring long continuous takes, and Tom DeCillo, one of the most prominent directors in US independent cinema, were each honored in a retrospective.
The Dardenne brothers opened the festival in person with their latest film, THE KID WITH A BIKE, and Aki Kaurismäki closed it with LE HAVRE. 237 films from 50 countries were screened at Ströhl’s last festival, and more than 400 screenings were held at the festival cinemas. Having sold some 70,000 tickets, this edition of the festival was definitely a success.
Two Swedish bands performed at the closing party in the Gasteig courtyard. “When the interviews were done, I partied hard,” Ströhl recalls. “It was 11 or 12 at night. Suddenly I heard the band that was playing call me over to the stage! I was already rather tipsy, but I went up on stage anyway, grabbed an electric guitar, and played ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ by the Rolling Stones with some of the band and press officer Michael Amtmann on drums. The lyrics had been handed out, and the whole audience sang along at the top of their lungs. It was a very nice way to close out my eight years at the Filmfest.”
"You can't always GET what you want" - Andreas Ströhl bids the Filmfest a rockin’ farewell.
the new director: DIANA ILJINE
Shortly after Andreas Ströhl announced his premature departure from the Filmfest, the festival’s shareholders — the Free State of Bavaria, the City of Munich, Bayerischer Rundfunk and SPIO, the umbrella organization of the German film industry — began looking for a successor.
At the last minute, Diana Iljine heard that the position was open. She had studied communications in Munich and had been involved in various film and television productions as a unit manager and production assistant. She had also spent her summers doing media relations and hospitality for the Filmfest and was thus familiar with all aspects of the festival. She later published her master’s thesis on legendary Munich film producer Bernd Eichinger as a book. Several years in the making, “Der Produzent” has established itself as an authoritative work since its publication in 1997. Iljine’s career took her to ZDF television in Mainz, then to the pay TV network Premiere in Hamburg. Returning to Munich, she bought the rights to feature films and series for television network RTL2. Later, at Telepool, she set up and oversaw the purchasing of rights to programs for Bayerischer Rundfunk.
“When it was announced that Andreas Ströhl would be leaving the Filmfest, I was in the process of completing a part-time business degree,” Iljine recalls today. “I was also busy with the third edition of ‘Der Produzent’. That’s when I had a conversation with Bettina Reitz, who was BR’s program director at the time. She told me, ‘Hey, it’s good that you’re here. BR is a shareholder of the Filmfest and I wanted to give you my recommendation!’ Marc Gabizon, who had hired me at Telepool, and other producers I knew also made me aware of the vacancy. Many of them told me: ‘This is just the right job for you! You love film and you’re very familiar with the Filmfest!’ Cinema had always been my passion, and I knew practically everyone in the film industry, so I could certainly see myself as director of the festival. But at the same time, I was caught up in my studies, had a small child, and had less than a week to apply!”
Night after night, Diana Iljine worked on her application. She was able to submit her documents just in time, was promptly invited for an interview, and was able to convince the shareholders of her suitability and of her ideas for the Filmfest. “Shortly afterwards, Mayor Christian Ude left a message on my voicemail that I didn’t delete for years. He simply said: ‘You’re it!’”
On August 1, 2011, Diana Iljine became the director of Internationale Münchner Filmwochen GmbH, heading both the Filmfest and the International Festival of Film Schools, now known as the Filmschoolfest. She took up her position on the Filmfest’s 30th anniversary and set the goal of bringing more international glamour and more international celebrities to the festival. In addition, she emphatically led the Filmfest into the digital age — with tickets soon becoming available via smartphone — and increasingly targeted younger audiences. Iljine and her team of curators also made significant changes to the number of films and sections, as she announced in the catalogue for the 30th edition of the Filmfest in 2012:
“To get in shape for this momentous anniversary, we have slimmed down somewhat, which also makes the program easier to digest. We now have some 180 films instead of 240 and have restructured the sections. We are an international festival and are taking the changes in international film production into account. Where a film is from is not as important as how it was made. There are independent filmmakers with original styles everywhere. Consequently, we have expanded our American Independents section and changed its name to International Independents.”
Alongside the International Independents section with its independently produced films from all over the world, a section called Spotlight was introduced, featuring films by established directors and starring well-known actors and actresses. The CineVision competition section, featuring mainly first and second works by young directors, had by this time been established and the CineVision Award presented in this context.
The CineMerit award-winner at Filmfest 2012 was Melanie Griffith. US director Todd Haynes was honored in a retrospective; there were homages featuring films by Julie Delpy and Nicolas Winding Refn as well as Special Screenings with James Franco, who came to Munich for the occasion. There were two tributes, one with films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the other with films by Loriot. After years of curating the section, Ulrich Maass handed over the New German Cinema section to Christoph Gröner, who included Jan-Ole Gerster’s OH BOY, a later box-office hit, in the program. A special was dedicated to documentaries, and the open-air section screened films with soundtracks by Giorgio Moroder at an event titled “The Sound of Munich”.