ELECTRIC SWAN (2019) by Konstantina Kotzamani © Homemade Films
ELECTRIC SWAN (2019) by Konstantina Kotzamani © Homemade Films

From April 21 to 26, 2020, the 32nd Filmfest Dresden will take place in the state capital of Saxony in Dresden, Germany, featuring an exciting festival program with the best short films from across the world.

Via the Shortfilmdepot platform, which was used for the first time this year, the selection committees received more than 2,900 submissions to the National and International Competitions, consisting of 1,883 fiction films, 507 animated works, 216 experimental films and 299 documentaries. Yet again this year, prize money at a total value of more than €67,000 is due to be awarded in the competition sections. Festival Director Sylke Gottlebe and her team will announce the complete festival program at the press conference on 24 March in the Schauburg festival cinema.

Beyond the competition sections, the first section titles in the special programs have already been set, and they provide a foretaste of what is to come in the 32nd festival edition. Under the title of “Afterimages – Traces of Trauma”, several program blocks here will survey and explore the artistic adaptations and enactments of traumatic events. And keeping with tradition, this focus on trauma is also reflected in the new festival motif.

“In terms of the content in our program this year, we intend to focus on the narrating and recounting of the unspeakable, as well as on showing the invisible. And we’re combining all of this under the terms and concepts of trauma, traumatization and even the overcoming of trauma,” Festival Director Sylke Gottlebe explains. “Our new festival motif acknowledges this thematic area visually speaking: as a splintered kaleidoscope of impressions and feelings.”

The program contributions will show and reveal traces of traumas, and generate related topics of discussion: Christoph Girardet and Matthias Müller will, for instance, utilize found footage to explore the thematic complexity of trauma in their collaborative work that now stretches back over 20 years. In this context, Filmfest Dresden is screening their multi-award winning piece CUT (2013), which shows the human body to be excessive and fragile at one and the same time. Furthermore, the audience favorite at the last film festival in Venice, ELECTRIC SWAN (2019) by Konstantina Kotzamani, is being screened in the special programs. It subtly articulates a critique of capitalism in the guise of magic realism.

Likewise the works of Omer Fast, one of the most striking film and video artists of his generation, are concerned with trauma. Filmfest Dresden is dedicating a tribute to this artist, who was born in 1972 in Jerusalem and whose works have been shown at international film festivals and critical exhibitions (such as documenta), and is screening two of his central short film works: 5000 FEET IS THE BEST (2011) uses an enacted interview to reveal the true experiences of a drone pilot. CONTINUITY (2016) also explores traumatic experiences of war as it skillfully blurs the borders of documentation, artistic adaptation and horror film. Omer Fast is attending this year’s festival.

Filmfest Dresden dedicates this year’s retrospective, entitled “Poetic. Politic. Defiant.”, to the female directors of the DEFA and the independent film of the East German GDR. While female directors had few opportunities to achieve breakthroughs in fiction film in the East German state DEFA Studios, for that they were able to accommodate their subjects and themes more easily in documentaries and animated films, and even risk experiments here. Likewise beyond the DEFA Studios, independent films were shot – using modest means such as the Super 8 camera, but free from doctrine. These female filmmakers, most of whom came from the visual arts, were concerned with transgressing borders especially and utilized the film footage as a creative interface and the human body as a way to narrate violence and trauma. In the retrospective, Filmfest Dresden is screening two programs curated by Cornelia Klauß that focus on works by the female Dresden artists Christine Schlegel, Marion Rasche and Monika Anderson, as well as documentaries by Helke Misselwitz.

Not only is the Frankfurt Book Fair highlighting Canada as its guest country this year under the motto “Singular Plurality”: With its FOCUS QUÉBEC, the 32 Filmfest Dresden is continuing its venerable friendship and partnership between Saxony and the French-speaking Provence of Québec in 2020. The aspiring director Miryam Charles is acting as the curator of the program. She was already a member of the film sound jury at the 31 FILMFEST DRESDEN and was represented with two films in various programs.

Among others in this year’s FOCUS QUÉBEC program, Malena Szlam’s multi-award winning film ALTIPLANO (2018) will be screened as a 35mm print. In it, indigenous land becomes the filmic setting in which centuries-old cosmologies encounter the incursions of modern raw materials extraction.

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