Interview with the preselection jury 2017
The preselection jury 2017: Olga Domżała, Tice Oakfield and Susanne Burg
The decision is made. FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH will screen a multitude of 12 1/2 hours of student short films: 25 fiction films, eleven documentaries, seven animations and one experimental film. The 44 competing films come from 17 different countries and 31 film schools. The decision about which films will be screened in Munich, was made by an international preselection jury. This year the jury consisted of Olga Domżała (OD), Susanne Burg (SB) and Tice Oakfield (TO). The jury had to watch 243 submitted short films with a full length of 66 hours. The preselection jury in an interview about their expectations, highlights and favourite films.
You had to watch and evaluate 243 films. How did you work your way through the films and did you have any expectations?
SB: There was a list of films and I stuck to it from top to bottom. It was easier for me that way. And I was happy about the mix of countries, lengths, genres and stories.
OD: I was watching the films from top to bottom and I didn’t know what to expect, it was interesting to watch the films this way because of the variety of countries, topics, genres. While watching I did not pay attention to what film school the films were from. The film itself was the only thing that mattered.
TO: To avoid watching films from the same school or genre in a row, I randomly went through the films. I believe a film should speak for itself. If it needs an introduction through any other form than the media of film itself, I generally don’t think it is good. Of course culture, language, knowledge of a country’s history etc. are sometimes necessary to know prior to watching a film. And to be honest two of the films in the festival activated me to do research about a country’s history and culture that I wasn’t familiar with. They made me care. My reasons to choose a film to be part of the festival were as varied as the films themselves. Each film had its own unique strengths.
What are you personally most interested in in a film?
TO: Lately I’ve been very much interested in science fiction. And to be more specific the technologies and scientific breakthroughs that will be shaping our next 50 years of humanity. Films like MARS and HER give us a glimpse at what might be possible in the near future.
SB: The fascinating thing about film is, how many things come together and how all of this works together. To understand what a film wants and whether this works or not. This is what I see as my big task. Also, my work at a radio station made me quite sensitive to the spoken word. The quality of a dialogue is something that attracts my attention.
OD: I like to feel engaged by both the story and a creative and intelligent way of communicating with me as a spectator.
The jury at work
What kind of films do you usually enjoy watching? Do you have a favorite film?
OD: The ones I come back to regularly and always with the same pleasure are OUT OF AFRICA by Sydney Pollack and ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW by Miranda July. I also love documentaries although I have to be careful with them because they stick with me for a long time and have a big impact on me.
SB: My absolute favorite is ONE, TWO, THREE by Billy Wilder.
TO: My favorite film? That’s a tough decision but one of the films that made a big impression on me when I was younger is SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR. It was such a visual spectacle. The director had made a strong choice that I had not seen before. That film has been stuck in my mind ever since and remains one of my favorite films. There are two films in this festival that are now part of my list of favorite films.
243 films are a broad scope: Have there, however, been overall tendencies that you noticed? Or have there been countries that stood out?
TO: While some countries only entered a few films, Israel was well represented. I was surprised about the amount of films and the consistent quality from Israel.
OD: I wasn’t surprised to see how many films there were on the topic of immigration, which is why I was happy when some of them showed the same well known subject in a different way. I think I expected more documentaries but the focus was clearly on fiction. Israel was very strong but that was no surprise.
SB: Israel was incredibly strong. Many of these films show a very own handwriting and the courage to go new ways. That was the biggest realization for me. Migration was a topic in many films: Quite a few documentaries followed refugees on their way to Europe. Sometimes the filmmakers even had their very own experiences. Another thing I noticed was that there were some films that dealt with the filmmakers parents or grandparents. That way the filmmakers tried to understand their own biography and tell a part of social history.
What was the biggest surprise?
TO: I’m sorry to say: But if you want realism and you want actors to drink, put actual liquids in the cups. My biggest surprise was that not everybody does that.
Diana Iljine welcomes the international preselection jury
Did you miss any themes or genres in the submitted films?
OD: Yes – documentaries. Bring them on next year!
How was the evaluation with the other two jury members: Did you mostly agree on the films you liked or did you have to fight for your favorite ones?
SB: Each of us had a few films that were important to us and for which we wanted to fight. We knew that. Luckily, we agreed on quite a lot of our favorite films. Of course there were still some differences. We discussed the films. Sometimes we convinced the others, sometimes we did not.
OD: We were lucky enough to end up with a final selection that we were all very happy and satisfied with. There were films we all agreed on immediately but some of them required discussion which was great. While selecting films we thought of not only our own taste but also about what would be interesting for the audience.
TO: There were quite a few films we all agreed on. But of course there were some surprises where one of us had to fight a bit for a film to get in. I did not have to fight for my favourites. Thankfully we all agreed on those. I did have to fight for one film which I thought was hilarious but I’m convinced it will get very mixed reactions.
What is your recommendation for students and audience on how to get the most out of a Filmschoolfest visit?
OD: Enjoy the films, discuss them, share your thoughts with others. You’ll be watching films made by future key players in the cinema world!
TO: Watch other people's work and listen to what other people have to say about your work. It's hard to objectively look at your own work. It's surprisingly easy to look objectively at other people's work. You can benefit from each other if you talk about your films. On top of that, having a multitude of films from countries all over the world, gives you a valuable opportunity to learn more about film making and storytelling in other cultures. And that might offer you a new perspective on your own methods and the messages you want to convey.