A rare selection of films from the former East Germany can be seen at this year's International Short Film Festival Winterthur.This content was published on November 8, 2001 - 08:00
Festival organisers have chosen 45 films for the competition, which runs until November 11, from over 800 which were sent in by filmmakers across the world.
Short films typically remain a European genre, however, with Switzerland, Germany, France and Great Britain contributing more than 5 films each to the selection.
Care was taken to present short films not only as a medium for up and coming filmmakers, but rather as a proper genre with its own artistic criteria.
"Short films are less constrained by commercial considerations, and therefore often convey a greater freedom of cinematographic expression than standard length films," one of the organisers, Simon König, said at a presentation of the programme.
Only films that were conscious of those freedoms and tried to exploit them have been selected, König said. Two thirds of the films - their length varies between under one and 20 minutes - are feature films.
The three-member jury will award the main prize of the international competition, worth SFr6,000 ($3,600), as well as three special prizes.
Several special programmes will also be screened during the four days in the festival's two venues. Two highlights stand out: a retrospective of short films from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), spanning the decade from 1953 to 1964, and a focus on recent short films from Sweden.
The 26 East German productions are from the "Stacheltier" (porcupine) series of films - black and white short films that were shown in East German cinemas as popular programme openers in the 1950s and 60s.
Debut outside former GDR
The films - some propagandist, others critical of the GDR - were recently restored by the German film archives and are shown for the first time outside the former East Germany.
The festival, which was first launched in 1997 by a group of film enthusiasts with a budget of just SFr15, 000 ($9,100), has grown alongside the international revival of short films into one of Europe's more important festivals in the genre. The budget has doubled within a year to SFr265, 000 this year.
Festival organisers emphasised during the presentation in Zurich on Thursday that the Winterthur International Short Film Festival did not want to be elitist. "It would be a pity if the short film revival would only show itself at international festivals", organiser Matthias Brütsch told swissinfo.
Brütsch says the Winterthur festival forms a bridge between filmmakers and commercial distribution channels. A short film distribution network already exists in Switzerland, and some art houses in Zurich and elsewhere recently started regularly screening short films as programme openers.
by Markus Haefliger
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