I had the pleasure of attending this year’s festival in Oberhausen, where over the 3 days I managed to attend I watched 51 films over 12 programmes. I’ll share with you a few of the highlights.
For the 50th anniversary edition the theme was Mavericks, Mouvements and Manifestos in honour of the Oberhauseners who signed the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962, who declared their right to ‘create the New German feature film’. This was reflected in the programme with a diversity of experimental and avant-garde works from the 60s to 2012 screening during the 6 festival days.
The thematic programmes showed a range of historical works from across the globe. The ‘Reality Rediscovered’ programme of Japanese experimental works from the late 60s was outstanding – particularly for The Isolation of Two-Long Distance Runners by Noda Shinkichi where silent looped footage of an incident at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics draws you in to consider ideas around nationalism; and for the contrasting psychedelic masterpiece For My Crushed Right Eye by Matsumoto Toshio which was all the more marvellous as it was projected from three 16mm projectors.
Whereas the work of The New American Cinema Group that was presented was somewhat lacking: Shirley Clark’s Bridges-Go-Round was one of the more interesting pieces with a typical abstract cinematography and jazz soundtrack, where Robert Frank’s OK End Here was thirty minutes of boredom on screen. However, Edward Bland’s The Cry of Jazz was an unexpected delight with its frank discussions about race relations.
A Special Mention in both the Grand Prize and German Competition was awarded to Sylvia Schedelbauer for her astonishing jump cut collage film, Sounding Glass. A particularly moving and inspiring film, where found footage scenes are combined to create the sense that one is witnessing the harrowing fragmented memories of a young soldier whose image reoccurs throughout the piece.
I also particularly enjoyed Lucy Davis’ film Jalan Jati (Teak Road) for the Migrant Ecologies Project – which was awarded the festival’s Promotional Award. A stop motion animation with a message, the film traces the origins of the wood in an antique bedstead through tracking its DNA. It’s an eye opening project in terms of both the scientific investigation at its core and the fantastical visualisations the artist creates, bearing a warning about deforestation and illegal logging in South East Asia.
And our good friend Jani Ruscica showed his latest, Six Scenes, in Six Movements, a meditation on historical texts with allusions to ‘a long history of cross-cultural misinterpretations’. The film seemed like a natural progression from the work Travelogue he made for Animate in 2010.
It was fantastic to see experimental filmmaker, animator and feminist, Vera Neubauer honoured at this year’s festival. I’m more of a fan of her ‘animation for adults’ which are fantastical and very funny – do check out Wheel of Life, The Last Circus and The Lady of the Lake if you get the chance. There’s little of her work online, you can watch an extract of Hooked, a film she made for Animate here.
Having seen Roee Rosen’s work at Rivington Place earlier this year I was looking forward to seeing more of his scandalous and politically charged films. And Rosen did not disappoint. Two Women and a Man was probably my favourite piece (though all of it made me laugh in a slightly uncomfortable way), the way that Rosen plays a female critic discussing the pornographic work of a fictional surrealist writer Rosen has invented and convinced the artworld once existed is excellent – watch it here.
Also Finnish filmmaker Ilppo Pohjola appeared at Oberhausen. His documentary film about Tom of Finland, Daddy and the Muscle Academy, is probably one of the best things I’ve seen all year for the documentary style and for revealing the man behind those erotic illustrations.
There were also a series of marvellous market screenings from the likes of Electronic Arts Intermix, LUX, sixpackfilm, and Netherlands Media Art Institute (who are sadly closing this year). Plus a series of provocative discussions around manifestos, found footage and the internet… it was a jam packed programme! I would recommend next year’s festival for anyone looking to find great experimental work.
Long live Oberhausen International Short Film Festival!