In 2014, Oberhausen turns 60 – the oldest short film festival in the world was founded in 1954 as the “West German Educational Film Festival”. From the founding ideal of “education for all”, to “short film mecca”, to Oberhausen’s special role as “window on the East” – as the only place many films from the so-called Eastern Bloc could be seen – the festival has developed in six decades into the platform for cultural, aesthetic and political discussions that it still is today.
The Theme programmes of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen
Just as important as the competitions are the festival’s extensive Theme programmes which have been continuously expanded since the mid-1990s. Today, the short format branches into a host of cross-genre forms that are not shown in cinemas, be it avant-garde, advertising or scientific films. Oberhausen presents this differentiated form of the short film in thematic contexts, thus creating a forum for social discussions which, although originating from the topic of short film, actually go far beyond film-related issues and lead to an all-encompassing dialogue on the ways and workings of film production in the arts, new technologies and science. Recent Theme programmes include “Flatness: Cinema after the Internet” (2013), “From the Deep: The Experiment of Film 1898-1918″ (2010) or “Shooting Animals” (2011).
The big Theme programme of the 60th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (1 to 6 May, 2014), entitled “Memories Can’t Wait – Film without Film”, will bring together works that take place in a cinema but play with the normal viewing situation. Many of these works don’t even use traditional moving image projection. So what happens in the cinema when the key element of the movie-going experience – the film itself – is taken away, when the screen is blank, when memories are evoked or “impossible films” presented? In one of the most extensive programme of “filmless films” so far, Oberhausen will present over 30 historical and new pieces that explore this question. “Film without Film” is curated by Mika Taanila, one of the most renowned contemporary Finnish artists and filmmakers.
“Memories Can’t Wait – Film without Film” addresses the specific cultural function that a cinema has, as a venue and as a space. While the commercial exploitation of movies is shifting further and further away from it, Oberhausen sets out to reveal, claim and re-discover the cinema as a sensual, social, political and, above all, collective space. “In our era of mobile devices and somewhat neurotic private online behaviour, ‘films without film’ allow us to see the possibilities for a new kind of cinematic freedom, the bliss of participatory cinema,” comments curator Mika Taanila.