Berlin’s own British Shorts Film Festival (Thursday, January 15 – Monday, January 19) has its finger firmly on the pulse of both student and professional emerging filmmaking talent from the UK and Ireland. The festival is growing – this year, it is one day longer than previous editions, and boasts two new venues in addition to the traditional platforms Sputnik Kino and Filmkunst 66 – the opening night is at Badehaus Szimpla, a former worker’s bathhouse in the complex of clubs at Revaler Strasse 99 (RAW Tempel, Cassiopeia, etc.) and the festival will also screen at the Acudkino in Mitte.
a unique outsider perspective and a Berlin connection
As distinct from other British shorts compendiums compiled on their home turf and sent abroad, this one has a unique outsider perspective and a Berlin connection. All three of the festival curators – Julia Elger, Jürgen Fehrmann and Andrea Stosiek – are Berlin-based Germans. Elger is a filmmaker. Fehrmann is the co-founder and coordinator of the 11-year-old Lichtspielklub film and performance club, and also a graphic designer and a DJ. Stosiek is the coordinator of the summer open air screenings at the Cassiopeia club, Lichtspielklub co-founder and coordinator, as well as the owner and manager of the festival’s main venue, the Sputnik Kino in Kreuzberg.
The festival’s origins stretch back through to the early years of Lichtspielklub, which was a Wednesday night film club that was established in 2004 and used to be held in an unnamed art space on Schönhauser Allee later called General Public. Lichtspielklub is all about presenting cinema in a more interactive, multimedia context, silent films with live soundtracks, live performances and/or DJs after the films, or “shadow and light and what you could do with it,” as Stosiek puts it. The British Shorts festival is in a similar vein. The festival started out in 2007 as a theme night at Lichtspielklub, with the connections to Britain stemming from Elger’s studies in filmmaking at the University of Bedfordshire.
The curators send out a call to every platform for filmmakers in the UK, including universities with film departments. The festival also works with production companies and film labels such as Warp Films, an arm of Warp Records. The rest of the submissions come in through strong word of mouth from previously participating filmmakers.
“It’s quite interesting to see where the focus of filmmaking is – each year, it’s different,” said Stosiek. “Two years ago, it might have been a lot of horror movies and stories about problems with family and children.”
“Coming of age is always a big topic,” said Fehrmann. “We don’t know why. My theory is that young filmmakers who do short films start with something from their own experience and make films about coming of age. It’s not that far away for them.”
“Even though it would be easy to make a focus on what is the main subject among all the submitted films, we never do that,” added Stosiek. “Maybe it’s something en vogue or something political that the filmmaker sees and transforms into a piece of art, but we don’t [categorize], we just make screenings with different genres without any special topic.”
“We really want to avoid screenings with a special topic,” explained Fehrmann. “Most festivals do it like that, but we want to mix topics – like a good DJ set, the way you mix things on a mix tape. I was once at a short film festival where I saw 90 minutes of films about young people having problems with their parents, and I didn’t really want to see more of it after two or three films. Of course, we have a look at what films could work well together, and this is not easy to do, but we mix it – definitely.”
The festival has always been more than just short film screenings, and so this year, in addition to a bumper crop of films from Scotland, the festival features a live performance on Friday, January 16 by a Scottish comedienne Eleanor Morton. She is a Scottish-Variety-Award nominee, and her performance is titled “Lollipop.” The festival’s retrospective series is titled “Reeling Back” and features some of the very first British films, which happen to be silent shorts made in the period from 1895 to 1910. Scottish experimental musician Dirk Markham will perform live soundtracks to these films. There are also two live band performances – by Berlin’s own Snøffeltøffs and Orchestre Miniature In The Park.
The festival provides added value and interactivity for filmmakers by inviting them to take part in a free film workshop with advance registration (registration is closed for this year and the deadline for next year will be early December). Through film screenings – from mainstream to experimental film – participants will approach the idea of “journey” in form and content, whether the journey be physical, mental, internal or external. During the workshop, participants will make a short film depicting a journey in Berlin. The workshop is led by filmmakers and lecturers Dave Green and John Digance of the University of Bedfordshire.
Jack Bond is a cult filmmaker and sometime actor in his 70s who has worked with Salvador Dalí, Pet Shop Boys and Werner Herzog
The festival also hosts interesting guests whenever there is an opportunity. One of the festival’s most distinguished guests will be in attendance at the Acudkino screenings on Friday, January 16. Jack Bond is a cult filmmaker and sometime actor in his 70s who has worked with Salvador Dalí, Pet Shop Boys and Werner Herzog. He will present the world premiere of Matt Jones and Luke Skinner’s film “Over and Over,” a gangster monologue in which he plays the lead and which features soundtrack music by Mick Jones of The Clash. Other members of the production team will also be present.
Both Fehrmann and Stosiek stressed that despite British Shorts being immensely popular and with lots of well-attended screenings, the festival staff always leave some tickets at the box office for spontaneous visitors. Nevertheless, showing up early to avoid disappointment is advisable.
For more information, visit british-shorts.de
Article by Kirill Galetski