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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Happy Birthday - Filmfest Hamburg

by Becky T.

Time to celebrate 20 years of Filmfest Hamburg! In 1992, the festival was a shadow of its present self: five days, 15,000 people, but DM 850,000 to finance it. The next year this sum was reduced to DM 650,000; participants could not agree and the manager stepped down, resulting in no festival in 1993. In 1994 the red carpet was in front of Streit’s cinema with the festival office across the street in the Alsterpavillon. This time the manager was fired without notice and the future looked black.

Luckily, the new boss, Josef Wutz, got the festival back on its feet and in 1995 there were 100 films in eight cinemas. The same year he originated the Douglas Sirk prize to be given to an international film person in recognition of his oeuvre, who still promises excellent work in the future.

A year later ticket sales doubled to 10,000, and in 1996 rose to 30,000 tickets sold. The festival seemed to be on its way but then there was a slump in 1997, and in 1998 a sponsor quit. Still they showed 62 films.

After 10 years Herr Wutz stepped down. Alfred Wiederspiel became the new head responsible for the 2003 Filmfest Hamburg. Since then Wiederspiel has raised attendance and number of films shown; he has added different categories such as eurovisuell, environmental, music, TV, and northern Germany. He started the Michel children’s festival. Now he has renewed his contract until 2018. 

To qualify, films must have never shown in Germany before; they are most often so-called international “art” movies, as opposed to the usual U.S. block busters. This provides opportunities for new directors to get a foothold in the business, as well as to provide a platform for the northern German film industry. There are nine prizes. Today the festival works with Euro 650,000 from the city of Hamburg, as well as donations from sponsors and donors totalling over one million Euros. It is the biggest, most successful German film festival after Berlin and Munich. Big-name stars are not culled for the occasion, but still they come: Sophia Loren, the cast from The Help, Hildegard Knef, Emir Kusturica, Cate Blanchett, Morgan Freeman, Christoph Waltz, etc.

Learn more in the special festival anniversary book Filmfest Hamburg produced by Michael Töteberg with the help of Fabian Kykillus and Ulrich Ortlieb. Available at bookstores for Euro 19,90.

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