Ever been to a film festival? I have been to the 59th International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen. Normally I am saying that I am there for two and a half days (of five). In fact I always watch only about six or seven screenings, sometimes eight. And I also visit one or two discussions. This year I really tried this again, but I didn’t succeed really. Five screenings – and that was it: Two on Saturday, two on Sunday, one on Monday. And that even though I had such a wonderful concept in mind: I had just mentioned Benjamin’s “Kunstwerk” here, have written so much about the internet as something that does something to you in the past. And the motto of this festival was “Flatness: Cinema after the internet”. If you want an easy access to that, just think something like “Flat characters use machines to show (flat characters doing) things that make the viewers dull. Or flat.” Or something. But that’s not the whole truth, of course. It’s more in the way you watch, the way you behave. There are so many ways to watch a film – or be at a cinema. You know that? Fine. “Heightened absence”? Wonderful.
So I will not tell you who coughed almost in time with whom or who moved when. I really tend to think something like “Wow! That’s a good moment to leave the room!” sometimes, when somebody is simply out for the loo. Not just because this festival in Oberhausen understands itself as a political one! But yes, there is really at least one really hypnotic cognitive science piece in the program, “Shikisou” by Yota Kobayashi and Barry Doupé from Canada. And the short film called “Flatness” by Mattin has lots to say about love, empathy, soul – and machines. I am just reminded of how I spoke to a German artist last week and told him that when I had studied communications, it was an important moment for me when I realized the following: Holy shit, these cognitive science and artificial intelligence guys (profs) now also try to take over onthology! (I threw the whole thing shortly after.) But okay: I was also at the festival’s press conference for the first time and – out of boredom – wrote down some “mistakes not to make when writing”. Here they are:
- Don’t always try so hard to find things to write about that you can link to earlier articles of yourself!
- Generally don’t just see what you want to see!
- Don’t trust the press officer or the curators!
- Don’t exploit the artists or their work for your own (imagined) needs or theories!
- Don’t watch too much (and don’t write too shortly afterwards about it)!
- Jubilees are of interest for local newspapers only!
- Some screenings and movies and talks are only there to make money, not because they are worth watching/visiting!
Yes, I felt good with that. I met bright and sensitive people. I had some laughs. I liked the atmosphere. I had “Skagboys” by Irvine Welsh with me for the breaks. The sun was shining. But then I went out on Monday evening. When the real Oberhausen starts to show. When there aren’t children and students and filmmakers (morning) or just students and artists (afternoon). Here they come then, at a Monday evening: The pleasure seekers, the entertainment addicts, the people that laugh too often, the people that do not hear or see themselves, the people that are a bit one-dimensional. The perfect food for every mass media fascist. They do not get it, when they are shown that they are the same somehow – Here! Right now! At this cinema! – as visitors of a Hansi Hinterseer gig on a mountain somewhere (“Hände zum Himmel” by Ulrike Putzer and Matthias van Baaren). In fact as a viewer of this movie I was forced to listen to three Hansi-fans I felt caged in with inside some elevator cabin for about fifteen minutes! Did I laugh about them? But why does this guy next to me laugh about some Indian shaman? Does this make me feel superior? Or is he feeling superior and full of ressentiments? I guess so.
Some paper said that this year’s festival wanted to test in how far the cinema (as a location) can be the right place for films that have “learned from” the internet. Before I went to Oberhausen, my thoughts were quite clear about that. You know: Theatre, Cinema, Television, Computer. Why not be more theatrical, performance-like in cinemas again? Short films also as a part of a performance. Non-interactive (in an odd sense) installations on screens or whatever. Why should short film makers even try to evoke prosumer behavior? All they can do is show us again and again that we are being manipulated, but people often simply like it! Oh, I have been shouting here. Must be the influence of some book and some people I sat next to in Oberhausen. That’s not very professional. And my eyes are tired now. Oh, how tired my eyes are!
(See also: "In Every Dream Home A Heartache" by Phil Collins, Museum Ludwig Cologne.) ((For Thomas Dolby: Look here.))