An interview with the preselection jury
The jurors of 2020 talk about their experiences
As every year, FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH invited an independent selection jury to compile the international program from the many submissions. We asked Ksenia Reutova (KR), Peter Azen (PA) and Sandra Engler (SE) a few questions about their selection process.
You had to watch 242 films. What were your expectations before you started watching the films?
KR: I was very excited. As a critic, I watch a lot of full-length films. This means that short films very often stay in the background. So I was looking forward to seeing the films. But honestly, I didn’t expect the geography to be so wide. There were participants from all over the world.
PA: Every time I head into a new project, I try to rid myself of as many expectations as possible. Premeditating what is to come can guide one toward a specific path. I don’t want to narrow my views because of certain expectations; I want to be open to the unexpected and also as fair as possible with the selection.
SE: I also tried to go in with no expectations at all. I wanted to be surprised in every way, whether it was good or bad. And I have to say it was very much worth it! It was a delightful, tear-jerking, anxiety-inducing, laugh-out-loud funny, impressive, and unique ride that I wouldn’t have wanted to experience any other way.
How did you work your way through the quantity of films?
KR: I was trying to avoid binge-watching by all means. In the beginning, I divided the length of all 242 films by the number of days left till the end of selection. I realized that every day I’d have to spend around three hours watching the films. Then I just tried to stick to that schedule.
PA: I also divided the number of films by the number of days we had left and watched them slowly throughout the month, but leaving a couple of free days at the end in case I needed to re-watch a few films. I believe that every one of us has their own method, but I think that this is the one that works best for me.
SE: We joked about this during our selection jury meeting, but I really did almost nothing but watch short films for an entire month. The good thing about that is that in August, it’s so hot in Spain that you don’t really want to leave the house anyway. I did celebrate finishing watching the shorts by going to the movies, so it can’t have been that much of a burden.
Did you notice any overall tendencies?
KR: I managed to identify at least three themes that were repeated in different films. The first of these is everyday women’s experiences. A lot of directors tried to find an answer to the question of what a woman feels in this or that situation. The second theme is the future: What will it look like? There were a lot of dystopian stories. And the third theme is about dealing with an older family member who is seriously ill and/or has problems communicating and/or has unresolved conflicts with other relatives.
PA: We did have a lot of political films, and it is interesting to see where they are coming from and what the points of view from different regions are. I do think there is a collective unconscious in certain themes and styles due to the current political tensions around the world. Immigration was a hot topic this year, and it was also great to see a lot of really good queer films.
SE: I think the mix is what made this year’s submissions so special. The films came from so many different places and dealt with such a variety of topics in very different ways that nothing stood out as being overrepresented. I loved seeing everyone’s styles and trying to guess their inspirations and influences!
What was the biggest surprise during the process?
KR: I didn’t expect that the whole process of watching would grab me that much. Every day I couldn’t wait for that moment when I’d start a new portion of films, and the next morning, after I’d watched them all, I felt a kind of withdrawal.
PA: Some of these films really blew me away. But I do think that the biggest surprise had to do with how the selection process was carried out. As much as I’d like to screen every film and let the audience decide what they like, we’re only able to have a certain number of films in the final selection.
SE: I was surprised that I loved it up until the very last moment, and was so sad when I got to the last submission that I went back to re-watch some of my favorites!
Did you miss any themes or genres in the submitted films?
KR: There were only a few comedies, but I guess I understand why. Comedy is still the most difficult genre of acting and directing. And maybe this will sound funny, but I really missed on-screen kisses. In general, there were not very many physical interactions that express romantic love. Interesting, isn’t it?
PA: I do wish that more horror or sci-fi films had been submitted. I was also surprised that we didn’t have a large number of films from different regions of South America or more shorts made by people of color. But overall, we did have a very wide range of genres and themes coming from different regions of the world.
SE: Well, I always think it’s a little hard to judge by what’s not there; I don’t know what could’ve been, after all. The variety and diversity of the submissions, both in front of and behind the camera, made for a truly great batch of films. I think this diversity is also reflected in the selection the three of us ultimately made. I very much hope this is felt by the audience and that the films speak to them as much as they did to me.
How was the evaluation process 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?
KR: It was much easier than I thought it would be. We didn’t have any conflicts or strong disagreements. It was a pleasure to discuss films together.
PA: We were three selection jury members from different countries and with different backgrounds. There are films I loved that never made it into the final selection, and I believe it was the same for the other jury members. But everyone listened to each other and we had a very interesting discussion, sharing our ideas about each film. So I did have a great time working on this selection with the other jury members.
SE: I was very surprised by how compatible our tastes were! We might have not agreed on every single short we watched, but that was what was so good about the little team the festival had chosen: we were able to apply such varied insights and approaches to our reasoning and choices. For this reason, the selection jury meeting was as valuable to me as the process of watching the films themselves. Ksenia and Peter even let me add one of my very favorite shorts to the program, even though they weren’t ecstatic about it. So I’m actually indebted to them and can only say great things about them!
Did your experience match your expectations?
KR: Totally. I was expecting that the short films from the different countries would give me a panoramic view of our world, and that’s exactly what I got. The technical level was very high, as well as the level of analysis and emotional depth. I also wrote down the names of some directors I will definitely follow in the future.
PA: As I said before, I minimized my expectations as much as possible, but I do think we had a good amount of great films from different regions of the world. I am very happy with the selection and very excited to share the selected films with everyone in November.
SE: It was such a fantastic experience that I can’t help wishing I could do this every year. I think I can confidently say it greatly exceeded any expectations I might have had!