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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Hamburg's Shorts

The opening ceremony which included a complimentary drink, opening speeches and one or two films from each section was nothing to scream and shout about. Not only were the speeches mundane but several of the films had technical difficulty.  The sound was often distorted or just simply disappeared. The problems varied from film to film and sometimes it was due to the projector. Still, there were a few gems to be found among the films which were enough to entice me to see several more sections of the festival. 

Mo & Friese Kid’s Short film Festival celebrated its 15th year anniversary.

The Festival included 10 different sections of films plus workshops where the children could participate and learn more about making films.  I had the opportunity to see several films and was surprised that the films came from twenty two countries although most of them were German.  Many of the directors were the kids themselves as well as being coordinated by a classroom teacher or a school.  There were animations, documentaries or even dramas. One of the sections I was most impressed with was “Gib mir fünf! Mut tut gut” or in English The High Five category where the focus is on children filmmakers and the slogan is Be Bold, Be Brave.   This section is a competition where the children are supposed to make the films themselves and are to be under the age of 14 years of age.  

Each year a new theme is announced and the kids have to get to work.  It was amazing to see how many good films were made. What I like the most was that the awards were given to films strictly made by kids and you could see the difference between a child’s point of view and adults.  First Place went to a fourteen year old girl Margareta Kosmol who borrowed her sisters Christmas present a camera made an amazing documentary in Armenia called Netze (Nets)The film was so mature that the jury wanted to see proof that she was indeed under the age of fourteen.   The second film was Echlappe´ by Moritz Misa and Nick Hempel which examined the moment a boy runs away from home and what were his options. The third film was a family production plus one friend who created a clay animation on a figure named VernonThe kids ranged from thirteen down to 4 years old and even brought their clay figures to share with the other kids. The winners received a total sum of  Euro 600 donated from Geolino.

Strange Days

I made a bad decision with my first selection…  I asked my logically thinking husband to join me for the section entitled Strange Days.  This category is a three part series that started in Vienna then went to Winterthur and finally landed in Hamburg.  It was an international look at different points of view which incorporated unusual camera techniques, lighting and off-the-wall stories.  I realized for the first time that short films are not everyone’s cup of tea. I think it was between the films, Stardust and Secret Strike Rabobank that my husband looked at me and said “so what am I supposed to get out of this?”  I wanted to say “hm, perhaps it lays in the difference between a left brain thinker and a right one? Or maybe I have developed a strange sense of humor?”  By the time we saw the film The Strange Ones and then, as the film This is Alaska came to an end, my husband turned to me and said, “and you go voluntarily to watch these films for fun? Uh right!” And with the closing film Zwischenzeit it seemed to answer all his questions as he smiled at me and said,” I think I will leave you on your own to enjoy the rest of these films.  I am like a fish out of water here.”

My final selection was called Lieblinge (Darlings) which I thought would be the best of all the films. Unfortunately it turned out that each curator chose their favorite film which they want to see again.  Then they attempted to explain why it was so amazing.  I was accompanied by Agnes who actually likes short films and we expected a good and sound answer from the different curators but after each discussion, we turned to each other like two puzzled people realizing we would never get a good answer. Luckily for us our evening had not yet come to an end.  We then proceeded to the festival center located at Kolbenhof Factory at Halle 5.  It was the first time I have been there but I found the atmosphere very cool filled with both young and old cultural intellectuals. The main floor had a café and bar where everyone gathered discussing their ideas.  Armed with a drink in hand, Agnes and I explored our new environment.  Upstairs was a small and cozy cinema where they were showing the winners of the festival.  There also is the No Budget Hotel as well as an Open Air screen outside.  On top of that there is a Horrorkeller where you can see frightening films in the basement. They also have workshops and special events during the week as well. Everything sounded so interesting but you have to be organized and sign up before the festival starts.  We were now waiting for the end performance and this turned out to be the highlight of the festival for me.

Hilbert Space 

A performance art piece by Karl Nussbaum The first time I met the New York based filmmaker Karl Nussbaum, was at a party by some friends of mine here in Hamburg several years ago.  At that time he was going through a very difficult time since his father had just recently died. They had a very close relationship and Nussbaum was trying to deal with this lose. I hadn’t seen him since then and was looking forward to seeing his performance piece.  The performance took place in one of the most beautiful rooms at Kolbenhof.  The old factory hall is immense with high ceilings and stripped down to its bare factory walls, a perfect setting for Nussbaum’s performance. As the performance began, Nussbaum had his back to us and began by explaining that was a tribute to a very special person who dealt in theoretical space, a mathematician who was an expert in Hilbert Space, his father.  This sent chills down my back as I realized that he had come up with a solution in dealing with the loss of his father. The silk line screen then took the form of a hovering parachute which was approx. two meters over Nussbaum’s head which was controlled by strings in which he could control the movement as it changed form. At the same time the film projected images of mathematical equations, weather conditions, old photographs and things decaying as the sequence continues, it spirals upward to a dimension of pure infinity. Nussbaum cleverly integrated Hilbert Space into this piece. I read that a vibrating string can be used as a model for Hilbert space and that made it very clear to me that the silk screen was also representing this particular kind of math but at the same time was giving the piece a spiritual heavenly sense of space as well. 

Nussbaum had found a unique and very profound way of dealing with the mourning of his father. Through his artistic view he was able to channel his emotion into a live performance which not only paid tribute to an extraordinary mathematician and holocaust survivor but gave a spiritual awareness to the viewer that was very moving on a universal level. It clearly had been a painful but healing process which has now given him a path to move onward to other pieces of work.

Karl Nussbaum had taken such an important journey into an inspiring and undiscovered territory of mixing experimental art with filmmaking.  It was the only piece like it at the festival and I would have loved to see more.  I suppose we normally see this kind of work for art museums and not for film festivals. Perhaps it would be nice to have more of these cross over forms of art available in an ever shrinking platform of creativity. Nussbaum is currently working on another project which will be at the next Hamburg Film Festival. So don’t miss it!

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