Thursday, September 01, 2011


August is festival-time here in Odense, Denmark. Not only do we have the annual Flower Festival, we also have Odense International Film Festival, a festival that concentrates on short films, animation and documentaries. OFF11 took place on August 22-27.

First of all I have to congratulate the powers behind OFF. This was the 26th time that the festival took place and finally, FINALLY, it had solved its major problems. Up until now the festival has suffered from too little room and insufficient technical equipment. In earlier years screenings were often cancelled due to problems with screening films in the proper formats and more often than not it was impossible to see the films anyway, as there was no room for the many people from all over the world, who attended this free festival. These problems had been fixed this year. The equipment actually worked and instead of screening each film two times, most of them were screened three times so everybody had a chance to see them. Unfortunately the many screenings of each film meant, that OFF11 didn’t have as many films as previous OFF festivals.

Most of the films at OFF compete for different awards. This year the International Grand Prix was won by the short film “Little Children, Big Words” made by Lisa James-Larsson, Sweden. The National Grand Prix was won by Danish Malou Reymann’s short film “13” and best animation by Swedish Jonas Odell’s “Tussilago”. The Audience Award went to the Danish documentary “Asger” by Signe Markvard and The Youth Jury Award to the Danish short film “To All My Friends” by Behrouz Bigdeli. I must say that I was astonished by these choices.

First of all I found it very odd that all the awards went to either Danish or Swedish films. It seemed VERY “clannish” when you think of the fact that the majority of films were non-Scandinavian. I guess it has something to do with all the jurors being Danish except for one, namely the Spanish Montserrat Guiu Valls, Managing Director of the Huesca International Film Festival. I think the festival ought to bring back huge international directors as jurors like in the early years.

Secondly I was…well, sad to see that all the winners – like last year – were so damn political correct! Among the winners there was no room for all the crazy, funny, strange and innovative films that used to be the trademark of OFF. These kinds of films were still around on the festival, but they didn’t stand a change of winning and I think that’s wrong. The main idea with OFF has always been to show the unexpected, the new and the creative, so why did the winners have to be so predictable and even boring? To me it seemed like the festival had lost part of its soul.

My own personal favourites didn’t stand many chances to win this year. Had it been up to me the French short film “The Piano Tuner” by Olivier Treiner would have won the International Grand Prix. The story of the piano tuner who pretends to be blind was surprising, funny and scary. For the National Grand Prix my winner would have been the Danish “Meeting My Father Kasper Hojhat” by Lea Glob, a very personal and witty documentary on how the director tries to construct the life of her father (a bank robber and magician who committed suicide after fourteen years in prison). Best animation for me was the Canadian “Sunday” by Patrick Doyon, because let’s face it, Canadians are simply the best when it comes to animation. My personal Youth Jury Award would have gone to the Polish “Mission To Mars”, a frightening short film telling the story of a Polish urban legend, and my Audience Award would have gone to the Spanish short film “The Screamers” by Roberto Pérez Toledo. It was probably the shortest of all the films – only 1 minute long – and hilarious.

As always Odense Film Festival offered a lot of other things than just the film award competitions. This year there were free concerts, open air screenings, seminars, workshops, talent camp, summer dance, Master Shorts, Pixar screenings, Club OFF and my own favourite “The Old Theatre” or “The Old Cinema” as it was called this year. This year the silent movies screened at The Old Theatre were the two Chaplin movies “The Cure” and “The Immigrant” from 1917, the Laurel & Hardy movie “You’re Darn Tootin’/The Music Blasters” from 1928 and finally the masterpiece “Strike” by Sergej Eisenstein from 1925. Like previous years the silent movies were accompanied divinely on piano by composer Lars Fjeldmose and introduced by the witty and insightful film historian Ulrich Breuning. If ever you come to OFF, “The Old Theatre” is a must!

After a week at OFF11 my hunger for short films, animation and documentaries has been satisfied, at least for now. But I’ll be back for more next year, so see you at OFF12.


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