Vienna’s “Ideal” Film Fest

Venue & schedule changes bring new energy to the Viennale

If there is one good thing about the coming of fall, besides perhaps the beautiful autumn foliage, the return of the scarf and the availability of fresh pumpkin cream soup, it is the Vienna International Film Festival, the Viennale 2009.

Since its inception in 1960, Austria’s international film festival has sought to be artistically independent, impartial to political and commercial interests; in the meantime it has earned the reputation of being one of the most egalitarian and democratic film festivals in Europe.

“At the Viennale, cinema is not primarily seen in its glamorous celebrity-oriented aspects, and also not primarily as a medium of entertainment,” said Alexander Horwath, of the Austrian Film Museum. “There are not many ‘closed’ events; It’s geared toward normal audiences.”

This 47th season begins Thursday, Oct. 22 – rather than its usual Friday night bash. This “extra” day is one of the Viennale’s new themes: “Ein Tag mehr Viennale. Ein Tag weniger Krise,” – one day more Viennale. One day less crisis.

It’s a question of pacing:

“Although we will not be showing any MORE films, this ‘extra’ day will loosen things up, taking away some 11am and 11pm screenings,” said Director Hans Hurch at the pre-Viennale press conference in August at the new headquarters on the Badeschiff on the Danube Canal.

As beautiful as the traditional headquarters were at the Urania, it was time for a change.

“The Urania has served us well for many years, but the venue itself is too small,” said Hurch. “The Badeschiff provides a very diverse meeting point for our public.”

A second press conference is scheduled for Oct. 6 in the Film Museum with U.S. film historian Jonathon Rosenbaum speaking on “transgressive comedies from the U.S.,” – not only comedies but also films having to do with America’s society as a whole.

Feature films announced so far include Anarchist by Lars von Trier, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench by Damien Chazelle, and Tetro by Francis Ford Coppola.

About 40 percent of the offerings will be documentaries, including “Berlin Steht Hin” by acclaimed director Volker Köpp, dealing with the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, a very personal account about the DDR. Another highlight will be the new documentary about the Austrian human rights activist and social worker, Ute Bock.

This year’s tributes include a “guest of honour” tribute to Tilda Swinton, who will attend the festival from Sept. 22-25 and has over ten of her films featured during the festival. The second tribute goes to the Philippine director, Lino Brocka, whose 70-80 films are mostly unknown to the western world due the difficulty of getting copies. For film buffs, the screening of these films will be a high point:

“I am very honoured and thrilled to be able to re-introduce this acclaimed director to the western world,” said festival director Hurch, “making available several films never seen before.”

The press conference ended in high excitement, clear from the mingling and discussions amongst the crowd after the discussion had ended. The main deck of the Badeschiff will be turned into the Club restaurant “Holy Moly”, the stowage deck the musical meeting point for all the night owls, the “sun deck” for lounging and discussing, and a fish market on the mainland.

This year’s Viennale is expected to bring a visitor count to over 100,000. It will be interesting to see if the excitement is warranted and if the festival’s “ideal” is once again upheld.

 

VIENNALE 2009
Oct.22 – Nov. 4
Programme release: Oct. 13: 20:00
Tickets can be purchased as of Saturday,
October 17, 10:00am, at the VIENNALE pre-sale counters Stubentor, Generali-Center, and Schottentor, as well as online at:
www.viennale.at

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