by Marnell H.
Trying to decide what to see at a film festival is agonizing, especially reading the International KurzFilmFestival’s tantalizing program guide; obviously IKFF receives more money than Filmfest Hamburg—just compare the programs! Competition (Wettbewerb) categories were: International, NoBudget, German, Pilsner Urquell Hamburg Night, Three-Minute-Quickie, and Mo&Friese. Special Program (Sonderprogramm) categories included: Country: America with various sub-categories, Gallery: Artprojx presents: Untied Tastes of America, Ancestors: Herbert Vesely, Motive: Are you Ready? – Worlds End, and Lab: Onomatopoeia – Poetry and All that Jazz. Finally I zeroed in on the Special Program category paying homage to all things American, choosing the Les Blank retrospective: Food and Music.
Arriving with time to spare on Sunday afternoon, anticipative and seated, at 15:30… nothing happened? After waiting 20 minutes, a gush of people arrived including KurzFilmAgentur Executive Director Alexandra Gramatke and entourage. Only then were we informed that only three films would be shown, because of “time constraints”. Cheeky, to say the least considering: a) it was their 20-minute delay, and b) the next two programs were the last of the day, i.e. time to spare later. Not only unprofessional, they weren’t very apologetic. An “insider” told me the hippie doc was better than the Creole film—gee, too bad I wasn’t able to decide for myself. Finally, the program started.
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, USA / 22:00 minutes / documentary / English / Color / 1979
Without a doubt, a German festival wouldn’t eliminate a film about a German director; personally, I’m a huge fan of Herzog’s work. As interesting as it is to watch Herzog eating (yes, he does) his shoe (boiled heartily in duck fat and spiced mightily), even more so is time traveling back to 1979. A younger joking Herzog, the fashion, cars, shops, and behavior: with fond nostalgia we’re taken back to a simpler time.
The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins, USA / 31:00 minutes / documentary / Color / 1969
This classic almost wasn’t made: only after loosing $60 to Lightnin’ in a card game was Blank able to continue filming. Joining legendary country blues singer Lightnin’ at a black rodeo, a barbeque, and in his hometown of Centerville, Texas, he laughs, jokes and mixes with friends, while confiding about his inspirations as well. Poetical and penetrating, Lightnin’ had known prison farm life, performed in Carnegie Hall, and recorded prolifically by the time this documentary was made. Still, he talks straight, easy in his skin and mesmerizing to behold.
God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance, USA / 20:00 minutes / Color / 1968
In 1967, an Easter “love-in” was celebrated in Los Angeles, California, replete with hippies, straights, and "flower children"; the mood sweeps us along. Blank concentrates on the surroundings, placing us smack in the middle of the dancing, singing, and playful interactions of those attending. We feel the energy, goggle at the mix of people and fashion, and are thankful this cultural phenomenon has been preserved.
What we did not see was: Dry Wood, USA / 37:00 minutes / Color / documentary / 1973: The film takes a look at black Creole life in French Louisiana. Leaving the theatre I compared the various images from the late 1960s and ‘70s to those years in my life. I wasn’t really aware of who Herzog or Hopkins were then, and many denizens in the small Kansas town where I grew up deemed hippies and “flower children” the “plague”. And for me, California was as faraway and as exotic as Timbuktu. Watching Les Blank’s films was a truly moving experience, although I wished I had been able to see the fourth film.
Musik und Essen – Die Filme von Les Blank (Food and Music – The Films of Les Blank)
Special Program Category — Country America | TRT: 110 minutes | English