Monday, 10/17/2016

Program #16: A refreshing surprise

Interview with the Preselection Jury

Program #16: A refreshing surprise

Simon Koenig, Kaspar Heinrich, Maria Reinup and programm manager Isabelle Haag during their visit to Munich.

Just one more week until you can all find out about this year's FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH program. The decision about which films are going to take part in the festival in November is made by an independent preselction jury of film pros. This years' preselction jury: Kaspar Heinrich (KH; freelance journalist from Berlin), Maria Reinup (MR, programmer from Tallinn) and Simon Koenig (SK, manager of Filmbüro Zentralschweiz - Switzerland). Find out more about the decision making process in our interview with the jury.


Was this your first experience as a jury member? What were your expectations?

KH: This was actually my first time on a jury, so I was very curious how it would be. Would we be able to agree quickly, or bicker for hours? I was curious about what the other jury members thought of the more unusual films, in particular.

SK: I have served on several juries already. In this case, I was most interested in what the film school graduates from all over the world would produce: What are the commonalities, what are the differences, do they share a typical style?

MR: This was not my first jury experience. Over the years working as a film festival director and programmer, I have been invited to different juries from music video jury in SXSW to feature films competition in Sitges. Normally you would see the films during the festival and decide right before it ends, who is the winner, being present once it happens. This time, the process was very different to me personally, as the festival showcasing the selected films, happens long later than we have selected the films and I will not be able to experience them with audience. Thus it felt rather as if we were programmers, putting together a program of some really good short films.

How did you work your way through the films: Did you have a kind of pattern you followed while watching and evaluating them?

MR: It has become quite important to me to see the films by countries or in this case, also film schools, to be able to grasp the big picture, which is interesting to me and might help re-evaluate if needed. And I tried to see the first 30 films again, after seeing all of the films, then knowing how the quality of the whole batch is.

SK: I screened the films school by school. Along with the originality of the theme and story, I placed a lot of emphasis on the production. Do the budding filmmakers have their own handwriting? Have they found their own style in which to implement their idea?

KH: I watched them alphabetically by English titles. That made for a very eclectic mix: Short, witty cartoons in between half-hour docs and dramas. Along with the points we awarded - on a scale of zero to three - I took notes of my inclinations. So my notebook would say "2<3", for example.

244 films are a broad scope: Have there however been overall tendencies that you noticed?

KH: It hardly makes sense searching for commonalities with such a mass of films. But that was the great thing about our job: On one day of viewing, we could delve into completely different countries and stories.

MR: One of the strong overall tendencies was surely the fine technical quality of most of the films.

What was the biggest surprise?

MR: I work as a feature film programmer and I do not program short films anymore. Definitely a refreshing surprise was that I had forgotten how much fun watching short films can be and what it means if a short film is a really good short film. As short films have less screen time to explain things, it is easy for the filmmaker to fall into clichés but there were a few films, which I consider the really good short films - that felt like the filmmaker had created a world or a really unique character of its own, in much less time, then one would usually have to establish it, making you eventually laugh or cry, learn something about life in very short time and I give a lot of credit to that.

Did you miss themes or genres in the submitted films?

SK: I would've liked to see more political films, that take a stance on current political developments or illuminate them. I was also surprised there weren't more films dealing with social media and the digital revolution, explicitly or implicitly. There were also very few experimental or non-narrative films. I would like to see more animated films, as well, especially since there's a special prize reserved for those.

KH: The large number of films covered a lot of territory. We had almost every genre which can be told in three to thirty minutes – even science fiction. There maybe could have been more horror films. And there wasn't a western, either...

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?

KH: There was never the radical split of one of us rating a film zero and the other three points, and we agreed on many films fairly quickly. At the end, when we were fighting for personal favorites, we solved it fairly diplomatically. It was also clear, each of us had to stand behind the films they chose very strongly. I think we accomplished that.

SK: We had several films we all liked a lot. Then there were a few films where our opinions differed widely. Those are often the most interesting films, in retrospect.

MR: I understood that our jury was quite on the same side compared to the previous one and I also felt there was quite a lot of common understanding with what were the really good films. We mostly agreed on a big chunk of the “good stuff” and then everyone had a few films they had a chance to speak of and defend. Taking the points brought out by the defender and the big picture – what was locked already – we did another vote. I don’t think you can do this more fairly as we did under the circumstances we had.