To be and remain the Number 2: The fact that the 52nd Hof International Film Festival in October 2018 lived up to this claim was confirmed by many guests. The festival was as great as ever, as was the tenor, and Ana Radica also said:
“We have shown that we can do it”.
Among the new German films, which Bavarian Television praised as a stroke of luck, were such surprising discoveries as THE MOVER and GOLIATH96, HAPPINESS SUCKS and WHEN FLIES ARE DREAMING. Max Gleschinski, the director of the drama KAHLSCHLAG, was delighted with the German Cinema New Talent Award, and mentor Edgar Reitz awarded the new Hof Gold Prize to the young director Luzie Loose for her film SWIMMING.
In addition to the festival catalogue, which was presented for the first time in a handy book format, only the international program was somewhat smaller than usual, in which the British feature film about the “Frankenstein” author MARY SHELLEY and the exhibition of eleven works by Barbet Schroeder stood out. The Award of the City of Hof went to Alfred Holighaus, President of the SPIO, who was a close friend of Heinz Badewitz. One of the many enthusiastic festival visitors was also the director of the main sponsor Arte.
“Keep up the good work,”
he recommended to the organizers, and Thorsten Schaumann said he had even seen him dancing.
True to the Badewitz motto that the Hof International Film Festival doesn’t need stars, but make some themselves, the 53rd festival began with a film by the only 27-year-old newcomer Gregory Kirchhoff. It was titled BAUMBACHER SYNDROME and had a big format in every respect. Tobias Moretti, whose son Lenz also celebrated his feature film debut in the film, plays the leading role of a television presenter who wakes up one morning with the voice of a monster.
Young German cinema also impressed with complex stories such as LEBENDIG by Michael Siebert (about terminal cancer) and KOPFPLATZEN by Savaş Ceviz (about a man who suffers from his paedophile tendencies). Connie Walther’s testosterone-loaded psychological thriller DIE RÜDEN about tough guys and fierce dogs as well as Sven O. Hill’s crook comedy COUP, which was awarded the German Cinema New Talent Award, also proved to be original features. Internationally, Taika Waititi’s World War II satire JOJO RABBIT attracted a great deal of attention.
In total, the third edition of the festival under the direction of Thorsten Schaumann was comprised 50 feature films. Among the documentaries, which reached a record number with 33 films – nine more than the year before – international women’s power stood out: From France came the global project WOMAN, from Australia a portrait of the American pop-rock pioneer SUZI Q, and from Germany, albeit directed by a man, DAS WUNDER VON TAIPEH, about the victory which was won by a team not recognized by the German Soccer Association at the first Women’s World Cup in 1981. Petra Landers, one of the world champions at the time, took part in the traditional HoF soccer match, which was lost 3:4 after a last-minute penalty.
The retrospective was dedicated to the Swiss filmmaker Samir, born in Iraq in 1955, whose Arabic name means “storyteller”. The Award of the City of Hof was awarded to the 35-year-old actor Max Riemelt, who made his Hof debut as the leading actor in NAPOLA in 2004.
The term “Double Feature” – which usually means that you can watch two films in a double program for the price of one ticket – was redefined in Hof in 2020: The 54th Hof International Film Festival took place as a Double Feature Festival. For the first time at a festival in Germany, all films (71 feature films and 54 short films) were presented twice. They were not only shown in the cinemas in Hof, but could also be viewed online throughout Germany under “HoF on Demand”. The online program was even available for 13 days, a week beyond the six-day physical festival. The reason for this novelty, like so many other things in this crazy year, was the Corona pandemic, which since March has severely restricted cultural events. So, the HoF festival team offered a dual festival as a result. In addition to films, discussions and talk rounds were also streamed. Each day, the festival produced almost six hours of its own content and, as the first festival ever, its own late-night talk show, GastHoF, with interactive audience participation and many interesting guests.
“The point was to celebrate cinema and send a signal to the industry: We are still here!”
Admittedly, after 30,000 visitors in the previous year, this time only 4,700 came to the cinemas, which could only sparsely be filled. But the fans who had to stay at home this year streamed the festival films more than 17,000 times! The program, which started with AND TOMORROW THE ENTIRE WORLD – in which director Julia von Heinz deals with her own political involvement in her youth – was quite something. Films from many countries, from Argentina to India and from Mexico to Iraq, dealt with current, often explosive topics; one of the surprises, FORCE OF HABIT, came from Finland and dealt with the MeToo movement in a clever, bold and even funny way. In addition to political films, there was also “weird cinema,” such as the Icelandic vampire film THIRST by the directing duo Gaukur Ulfasson and Steinbor Hroar, and a focus on strong families and strong desires. And there was a special on the theme of “Leaving home … coming home” with three films by the Austrian “radical” artist Ludwig Wüst.
As always, the focus was on German cinema, which impressed, among others, with the scary dystopia END-80 by Willi Kubica, the cheeky chamber play BABY BITCHKA by Anna Maria Roznowska and the documentary AWARE – GLIMPSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS by Eric Black and Frauke Sandig. Prizes were awarded to RIVAL by Marcus Lenz (German Cinema Talent Award), TOPRAK by Sevgi Hirschhäuser (Hof Gold Prize) and KING BANSAH AND HIS DAUGHTER by Agnes Lisa Wegner (GRANIT Hof Documentary Film Award – in this competition Monika Pirch also received an Honorable Mention for her film HALDERN POP). The Award of the City of Hof went to the 37-year-old Berlin-based director, author and actor Axel Ranisch, while the Hans Vogt Award went to filmmaker Emily Atef, who presented her crime thriller JACKPOT at the festival. The VGF Young Producers’ Prize went to producer Lena Vurma of dragonfly films for ADVENTURES OF A MATHEMATICIAN.
Ralf Sziegoleit, the author, is arts journalist.
For many years he was features editor at the daily Hof newspaper Frankenpost for which he has been reporting on the Hof IFF since 1967.