The Viennale turns 50 this year. I first caught glimpse of this festival last year. I had the good chance of visiting the Berlinale and Cannes film festival a few times, not to mention smaller festivals. My prior attendance to these festivals strongly formed my expectations. Over a whole weekend spent in the capital of Austria, I did bump into a few surprises.

Besides the obvious marathon every serious film festival turns into,  something else happened. It was hard not to notice how relaxed everyone was, how varied the public was- and most importantly, the quality of the films the festival managed to put together. There’s no chance of seeing a blockbuster at the Viennale. One can catch a glimpse of films shown previously this year at the Cannes Film Festival, but also new and otherwise unreachable films- documentaries that will probably not be distributed in your country, but are good, so good, that you’ll be left craving for another year at the Viennale.
The Viennale is a festival dedicated to film as an artform- a festival that not only celebrates avantgarde, but also showcases the work of a true artist, each year bringing someone new. In 2011 Chantal Ackermann, the Belgian artist and filmmaker was in the spotlight- which is an absolute plus to the everyday filmgoer, who rarely gets to see her work on the silver screen. The festival tribute had Henry Belafonte at its core, and the trailer was made by David Lynch. This mere enumeration can tell one a lot about the profile of this festival.
“It’s a film festival’s job—and increasingly so—to create moments of recognition, of enjoyment, of shock, of learning. Not of consumerism. “ says festival director Hans Hurch.

Still from David Lynch’s shortfilm made for the Viennale, the 2011 edition, entitled “The 3 Rs”

Spend a weekend at the Viennale and you get a glimpse of the joy of filmmaking, film watching, as it used to be, before life existed its fastforward form, as it does now. People queue, and they do it with calm and easiness -and mind you, there’s only one line to queue in- as opposed to Cannes. Things are clear- where to find what, and one can reserve their ticked in advance. Contrary to the usual Sunday morning, at the Viennale the halls are full- or so it happened, when I tried to get a ticket for Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film, “Alps”. It had already been booked and overbooked, alongside Miranda July’s “The Future”. But this didn’t turn me off- I had so many other halls to satisfy my cinematic thirst.

Submitting shorts 

An interesting festival for short filmmakers, the Viennale’s submission routine is way different than what one is accustomed to. Unlike the usual offline/online festival submission routine, with all the waiting, the confirmation, the acceptance or rejection letter- films meet a different destiny here. Filmmakers should send one page synopsis of their film, without any forms and typical press/promo materials. Should they be selected for the preselection, they will be asked to send in their preview screener copy. Although the festival shows mainly full length feature films and documentaries, shorts are also included in Viennale’s programme. What relaxes the whole race for the filmmakers is that the festival itself is not competitive. This is one more reason for both filmmakers and audience to sit back and relaxed, because it’s all about the film’s quality- that’s what makes the film’s reputation.

Still from David Lynch’s shortfilm made for the Viennale, the 2011 edition, entitled “The 3 Rs”

Viennale in 2012

This year’s anniversary trailer was inspired by Hitchcock’s work and was made by Chris Marker (who unfortunately died this summer), the French filmmakers and essayist, known for La jetée and Sans Soleil. A rockband will perform live as La jetee is being projected in front of the audience- only one of the programs that celebrate the Viennale turning 50.

The main selection of this year’s festival includes Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new film, “Mekong Hotel”, previously shown in Cannes alongside Ulrich Seidl, Thomas Winterberg and Alain Resnais’’ feature films. The selection also includes Werner Herzog’s new documentary mini series, “On Death Row”. This year’s retrospective focuses on Fritz Lang’s work, naturally, shown at the Film Museum, celebrating film classics.
The festival made room for special experiments, like the “Something Different” programme combining films from the ‘50ies up until the ‘80ies TThe Hills Have EyesWes Craven, USA 1977, The Thing, John Carpenter, USA 1981, The Thing From Another WorldC, hristian Nyby, USA 1951- to name but a few). The complete official film selection, including shortfilms, is still to be announced.


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