Only two days after my return home from a fantastic, exciting, insightful and learning and experience intensive year in Edinburgh, I started an internship at the Kurzfilmfestival Köln, which not only helped me to settle back in in Germany but also made even more clear to me how much I have learned in that year within the Film, Exhibition and Curation Course at the University of Edinburgh. A big thank you to our mentors Susan and Jane but also to all my fantastic class mates who brought in never-ending amounts of inspiration, ideas, knowledge, fun and motivation.
I joined the team of the Kurzfilmfestival Köln (short: KFFK) in the very crucial phase of finishing up the programme and even was given the chance join the curation team for one of the programmes, which turned out to be called Fokus: Work Work Work. Thus within those first couple of weeks my work consisted of researching national as well as international short films via catalogues, festival programmes and thematically relevant websites. Eventually in one long viewing session our five headed curation team put together a programme, which, I must proudly acknowledge, was almost sold out and earned a lot of praise from the audience. I also did a lot of the more practical work like finding filmmakers, requesting viewing links and ultimately sending out confirmations and requests for screening licences and copies. Other tasks included the co-ordination and supervision of our 50 highly motivated volunteers and occasional venue management complete with a rather terrifying but eventually affirming experience with problematic 16mm copy.
The festival has been operating in Cologne for ten years now. Formerly known as Unlimited Festival it changed its name to Kurzfilmfestival Köln last year in order to promote and use its status as the only short film festival in the city. First and foremost, its aim is to show very good short film but also to provide a platform for filmmakers and young talent and to try and identify new and exciting developments within filmmaking. I was impressed by the wealth and variety of short films the KFFK screens at three venues in the centre of Cologne (Filmforum at Museum Ludwig, Filmpalette and Filmclub 813).
The German competition which includes 26 short films chosen from roughly 700 submissions. Then you can find the Best of Festivals section, which featured three separate programmes this year, bringing prize winning films from festivals all around the world to local screens. Each year there is a “Fokus” programme, which follows a special theme (“Work” this year) and there has been a four hour Kölner Fenster showcasing films from Cologne’s three film and art schools and local talent. The “Kölner Fenster” regularly turns into a huge meeting/party/discussion among colleagues and friends. The New Aesthetics branch of the festival is becoming its signature programme. Entirely new and exciting to me New Aesthetics looks at films that are crossing the boundaries of filmmaking towards internet art, interactive storytelling and games.
For the first time New Aesthetic included a Virtual Reality programme, consisting of nine VR shorts and a Jury prize. Not having watched or experienced any VR before I was surprised how far the production of VR films reaches. From truly beautiful and exciting animated journeys through fantasy landscapes, to documentaries and fiction that jumps between classically narrated bits of film and VR. Although the technological side of VR seems to need one or two more years to sort out issues of focus, stitching and clarity of the images, this showed to me that there are many creative heads out there, ready to make use of the new developments. Also for the first time I got seasick from a film. Though never really thinking about moving out of the way of some VR object while watching the “film” I was surprised by how my body reacted to this new viewing experience (perhaps a faint reminder of the – slightly overrated – train effect on early cinema audiences).
Impressive was also the wealth of film festivals and the degree of collaboration and support between the various festivals and cultural institutions in Cologne. The KFFK screened a New Aesthetic Preview at the Film Festival Cologne, my colleague Seyda Kurt curated a programme for Cinepänz, a children’s film festival with whom we also organised an animation workshop, and our Spotlight on Abbas Kiarostami was curated by Amin Farzanefar, director of the Iranian Film Festival. Furthermore, the regular programme Shorts on Wheels, took the audience on bicycles to various galleries and cultural institutions within the city centre. At each stop my colleagues screened a short film unto a wall or cloth.
All in all, the KFFK has been a wonderful and fun experience with a lovely and motivated team that is keen to experiment and find new and exciting films and ways to show them. It’ll be interesting to see how the festival develops within the next ten years.