Saturday, August 25, 2012

OFF12 - Odense International Film Festival

The 27th Odense International Film Festival took place on August 20-25. As always the festival concentrated on short films, animations and documentaries. The films competed in fourteen different categories, best international, national and animation being the most important, and this year the animations were amazingly good. As for the short films and documentaries…well…

The films weren't bad, not at all, but they weren't really good, either. I don't know if it's a new trend in filmmaking, but the thing is that most of the films stopped in mid-story. They had no ending, in fact it felt as if half of the films were missing and I can't figure out why. Maybe it IS fashionable among directors only to show the first half of a film or maybe they ran out of money when they got that far? Some chose to tell the rest of the story in writing on signs, others just didn't care. Maybe the new generation of filmmakers doesn't care about plots? Many of the films were pretty violent and bloody and it seemed that, as long as the directors were able show the bloody, gory, violent bits, they couldn't be bothered with endings.

Worth mentioning are, however, the Hungarian "Finale", a funny and surprising short film by Balazs Simonyi, the humorous and strange Swedish short film "The Twin" by Gustav Danielson and the French "The End" by Barcelo, featuring Charlotte Rampling in an eerie tale about the actress being digitally replaced by an up and coming talent in her old movies. As for the animations, there were so many good ones this year. Some of my favourites were the British "A Morning Stroll" by Grant Orchard about a man and a chicken in New York, the musical and very funny "Big House" by Estonian Kristjan Holm and the Danish "Dog in Heaven" by Jeanette Nørgaard based on Hanne Kvist's children's book by the same name.

This year's winner of the International Grand Prix was the Swedish "The Twin" and the National Grand Prix went to "Dog in Heaven" (both mentioned above). The Bulgarian "Rew Day" by Svilen Dimitrov won "Best Animation", showing the last day of a man's life, seen as on a videotape that is being rewound. They were all pretty good films, but not my favourites. Had it been up to me, the International Grand Prix would have been won by the Dutch "Small" by Sanne Vogel, a funny and charming short film about being touched by man for the first time. For the National Grand Prix I would have chosen Søren Grinderslev Hansen's "The Black Sheep", a chilling tale of a man and his brother who is a true monster. Best animation for me was the Danish "Slug Invasion" by Morten Helgeland, brilliantly animated and very funny, about killer slugs in the garden of an elderly lady.

As usual the festival had its problems. For one there were not enough ballot papers, so several hundred people didn't get to vote. Another problem was the so-called "Artist portraits", short portrait films sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. There were three in all, each featuring a Danish artist, none of them being particularly famous. What was wrong with that was, that at each OFF12 screening you had to watch one of these portraits first, meaning that you had to see the same film over and over again. It was unbearable! Personally I came to see the films about clothes designer Stine Goya and director Michael Noer four or five times and the one about musician Kim Kix no less than seven times! In the end I felt like screaming when his face appeared on the screen and I promised myself never to listen to any of his music as I'm just fed up with the guy! So these promotional portraits were not a success.

Last year the festival had solved its biggest problem - not enough room for the audience - by screening each show 3 times, but this year the problem was back as the audience had grown. At every screening people were rejected at the door, not just the "ordinary" audience, but even the press and the directors of the films! The main reason for this was (like in previous years) that schools were able to pre-book seats. A school class is roughly 30 people and often 2 classes had pre-booked the same screenings. As the cinemas only had respectively 50 and 100 seats, there were no room for anybody else, especially if the Youth Jury showed up as well as they counted another 30 persons! For some reason the Youth Jury preferred to watch the screenings together instead of going on their own like the adult jurors, so that caused a bit of overcrowding as well.

As this is recurring problem that has existed since the festival opened for pre-bookings from schools, my suggestion would be that the festival has special screenings for schools and the Youth Jury, this way making room for the "ordinary" audience. Either that or the festival could go back to using the "big" cinema complex by the railway station again like they did some years ago. This cinema complex has 9 screens and seats 1,000+.

The lack of capacity is a huge problem at the festival, because people who are rejected at the door get very angry and aggressive and they take it out on the ones who got a seat. I got the last seat at one of the screenings and I was verbally assaulted by a little old lady because of that. And I'm not the only one. People get very rude, pushing and shouting at the ones who got a seat and it surely takes the fun out of watching the films, when you literally have to run the gauntlet to get there.

As usual the festival had lots of extra activities - for free of course - like open air screenings of movies like Martin Scorsese's "Hugo", workshops, masterclasses, concerts and a video bar and then of course there was "The Old Theatre". At "The Old Theatre" old silent movies are screened accompanied divinely on piano by composer Lars Fjeldmose and introduced by the witty and insightful film historian Ulrich Breuning. The films this year were "First Public Screening", "L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat" and "Démolition d'un Mur" all from 1895 by Louis & Auguste Lumière, "Le Voyage dans la Lune" from 1902 by Georges Méliès, "One A.M." from 1916 by Charles Chaplin and finally the Laurel & Hardy movie "Big Business" from 1929. As usual this was the highlight of the festival for me.

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