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    Interfilm Berlin – International Short Film Festival Berlin

    By Tanja Meding | April 15, 2009

    Every year, during the Berlinale, Interfilm Berlin presents Golden Shorts – 12 audience favorites selected from the monthly 2008 Short Attacks screenings. This year’s selection played to a packed audience at Berlin’s renown Volksbühne venue. After presenting an exquisite slate of shorts, the audience was invited to vote for the ultimate 2008 short film. And the winner, Klaus Morschheuser’s animated Der Storch (The Stork) (Germany), is a charming short that sets the record straight about the stork delivering babies. Another favorite was British filmmaker Johnny Kelly’s animated short Procrastination (UK). A well known activity familiar to many of us, Procrastination is about doing anything but the one thing one should ought-need and must do – poetic, and to the point, a visual delight!

    Besides the monthly Short Attacks screenings, Interfilm Berlin presents a whole slate of specialized festivals and events, runs a short film distribution company and most importantly, produces the annual International Short Film Festival Berlin. This year, between November 3-8, the festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary!

    Eight years ago, Interfilm founder and festival director Heinz Hermanns and his team added yet another feather to their cap: Going Underground – an innovative audience festival for films up to 90 seconds, coproduced with Berliner Fenster, the service agency that programs and services the LCD monitors with news, advertising, and local events on Berlin’s subway system. All subway riders are invited to vote for their favorite film via email or text message. Thus, Going Underground is a unique festival that offers the participating filmmakers and their work enormous exposure to a vast and varied audience of up to 1.6 million viewers a day. So, if you have a short film running no more than 90 seconds and without any sound, send it to Hermanns and his team. The next edition of Going Underground will kick off on 9 September 2009.

    Interfilm Berlin is constantly busy, and its director Heinz Hermanns is always on the run. Over the course of 25 plus years, Hermanns figures that he has reviewed up to 40,000 shorts. When asked how he discovers talent and what makes a good short, Hermanns answered that his mission is mainly to find the best short films – discovering new talented filmmakers is more of a by-product that happens along the way. To him, a good short can be a documentary, an animation, a fiction piece, a horror, love or children’s story, traditionally or experimentally told. A good short has to have a dramatic arc, needs to be original, and has to know just how much time it needs to make its point. Most important for Hermanns is that the film reaches its audience, surprises and fascinates, and makes the spectator laugh or cry – all without any of the mistakes that a feature length film may get away with.

    Over the years, he has noticed that countries like France, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Germany, Spain, Korea, Australia, Canada, and Mexico are consistently producing high quality work. More and more Eastern European countries are joining this list. Africa on the other hand is a relatively new and undiscovered ground for him. After meeting a number of African Film Festival organizers during the past year, Hermanns now hopes to travel to Madagascar and South Africa in the nearby future, to meet local filmmakers and see their work – plus to present a selection of Interfilm favorites to these local audience. Other countries that he would love to visit, in order to learn about the local film culture and then present these to the Berlin audience are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and China. He regrets that, too often, these filmmakers do not submit their work to his festival – making it even more important for him and his team to travel to these countries to start a dialogue. In addition to traditional festival and theatrical presentations, Hermanns strongly believes in alternative screening venues – like outdoor screenings in rural Venezuela and Brazil or on the Berlin’s and Seoul’s subway system – all already produced by him and his team.

    Questioned how he puts the festival programs together, Hermanns states that one has to be proactive when looking for good films. Besides screening the 4000-6000 films that are submitted every year, Heinz Hermanns and his team travel the world in search of the cream of the crop. In addition, the festival also receives numerous recommendations from people who know the festival and its focus. Asked about the future of shorts, Hermanns concludes that shorts have the privilege and advantage of being more flexible in content, form and length than features. With the new technologies such as web TV, pay TV, mobile phones, all looking for content, shorts have more platforms and can reach a wider audience than before.

    Plus, there are more opportunities to show shorts in public places, like on the LCD monitors in Berlin’s subway or in a doctor’s waiting area. Hermanns is certain that this trend will continue and expand. So the future of shorts looks bright; and Heinz Hermanns and his team have contributed to this by entertaining and educating their audiences. And a tip of the hat to Berliners for their curiosity, sophistication, and taste for the short film format! For more information on Interfilm Berlin, its many activities and festivals, click www.interfilm.de

    – Tanja Meding

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