“A magic dwells in each beginning,” German author Hermann Hesse famously wrote in a poem he titled “Steps”. Yet as we all know, “the first step is always the hardest.” The latter aphorism might well have applied to the inaugural edition of FILMFEST MÜNCHEN, alongside a certain magic that was in the air.


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the Team of FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 1983 (left to right, standing): Eberhard Hauff, Ulrich Maass, Maria Ratschewa, Nic Iljine, Irmi Fischer, Annette Schöningh, Katharina Hembus, Heidemarie Schneider; crouching: Florian Richter, Uschi Reich; sitting: Rolf Thissen, Bodo Fründt, Robert Busch, Karl Beckers.


In 1977, a number of Munich filmmakers met at the ARRI cinema for a “1st Munich Film Roundtable” aimed at giving greater exposure to locally produced films. This was “almost a promotional event for the movies of the so-called Oberhausen Manifesto generation,” Eberhard Hauff recalled in a 1983 interview with the monthly magazine “München Mosaik”. The filmmakers envisioned a festival supported at both the municipal and the state level. “In 1978 we met with Dr. Kolbe of the city’s cultural affairs department and discussed how the city could continue to support us. Those were the first concrete plans for a festival.”

It was expected that Hauff himself should head the festival; after all, he was an experienced screenwriter, director, and producer who had co-founded the Bundesverband Regie, a national professional association of film directors, in 1975 and would go on to head it for decades. He was also involved in many other associations and committees. The fact that Hauff was not available to fill the position of festival director was not an obstacle, however, because the first edition of the festival was still a way off.

In 1979, Internationale Filmwochen GmbH was founded, with the City of Munich, the Free State of Bavaria, Bayerischer Rundfunk, and SPIO, the umbrella organization of the German film industry, as shareholders. But according to Hauff, there “ensued years of wrangling about personnel and goals which were annoying and frustrating.” When publisher Alfred Wurm, director of the Munich Fashion Week, was chosen in his stead to be in charge of the forthcoming festival, this gave Munich’s filmmakers all the more reason to stage a concerted protest. They traveled by train to Hamburg as a group and put on their own inaugural film festival there in a clear show of opposition to the cronyism in Munich.

“The prelude was not exhilarating. If anything, it was embarrassing,” then-mayor Christian Ude noted in the publication commemorating the Filmfest’s 30th anniversary. “It was called a provincial farce, megalomania, and put on at considerable expense, by movers and shakers from other fields, with the rather large local film scene abstaining.” In another article, Abendzeitung film editor Angie Dullinger reported that “the idea of industry expert Eberhard Hauff and later Oscar-winner Volker Schlöndorff in 1978 to make Munich the forum for the up-and-coming New German Wave degenerated to a local political football with all of the corresponding hubris and folly.”

The festival’s second director, Andreas Ströhl, summed up the conflicts in that era more matter-of-factly. The city of Munich “wanted ‘culture for everybody,’” he wrote, while “the Bavarian government on the other hand saw FILMFEST MÜNCHEN first and foremost as a very inexpensive and efficient way to promote the local film and television industry and its location. ... These two approaches are not mutually exclusive, but they require a tightrope walk that has characterized the Filmfest from the beginning and which should be interpreted as productive tension.”

In 1983, the festival finally got off the ground, with Eberhard Hauff as its first director after all. The name that had originally been envisioned — “International Munich Film Festival” — had been rejected because it might have implied competition with other festivals such as those in Cannes or Berlin. “But that’s totally fallacious. None of us want that,” Hauff said in an interview with “München Mosaik” prior to the festival’s first edition. “We want to come up with something of our own, something typical of Munich and the residents of this city.” Thus the name “Filmfest München” was adopted, underscoring that this is a festival for the general public with a focus on domestic productions. “My particular concern is for German cinema and its subsidies,” Hauff declared.

Meanwhile, the festival also aimed to offer a closer look at current films from abroad. Ulla Rapp, who had previously worked for the Filmverlag der Autoren and whom Hauff had recruited to be a curator and translator for the first Filmfest, laid the foundation for her American Independents section at the very first edition of the festival. “Timothy Ney came to the first festival. At the time, he was the director of the Independent Film Project in New York, THE platform for US independent films,” Rapp recalls today. “Tim brought two films with him: SUMMER SPELL and CITY NEWS. Those were the first indies at the Filmfest!”

The opening film also added some international flavor. The first Filmfest kicked off with a screening of LOCAL HERO, a comedy by Scottish director Bill Forsyth, on Saturday, June 18, 1983, at the Gloria Palast on Karlsplatz (Stachus).