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Braunschweig International Film Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary

3441 films later – Braunschweig International Film Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary

”European cinema and ‘Music and Film’ – are the two pillars on which the festival plans to continue to grow in the next 25 years“, says Volker Kufahl, head of the Braunschweig International Film Festival. The 25th anniversary will be celebrated from November 8-13 with 160 films and many guests, making it the oldest and - with its more than 25.000 visitors - also the biggest film festival in Lower Saxony.

The festival started in 1987 as a ”civic film movement“: twenty students, graduates of Braunschweig’s film class and members of the ”Filmkoop“ had joined together to oppose – quote – the ”commercialnonsenseprogramme “ of the established theaters. ”We can hardly believe it, here it comes: the 1st Braunschweig Film Festival!“, the founders rejoiced. With grass-roots democraty, run by volunteers and with great enthusiasm they compiled a programme that combined Hollywood movies with New German cinema and DEFA films.

Until today Braunschweig International Film Festival is a registered association with the goal of promoting film culture. ”Size, the way we see ourselves and management of the festival have changed dramatically over the years“, says Kufahl. Since 2000 he has run the festival, focusing consistently on European productions. The filmfest is strongly involved in the film cultural exchange with France, and in addition to the „Heinrich“ audience award for European debut and second feature films, it introduced three new competitions, developed the focus ”Music and Film” and started many projects to boost film education for young audiences.

With the “European Actors Award“ it established a new highlight in just four years that is important for both the festival and the public. ”Stars like Bruno Ganz, Hanna Schygulla, John Hurt and Stellan Skarsgard underline the European orientation of this festival”, explains Kufahl.

The first festival had to manage on a budget of 66,000 DM. 80 short and long films in 65 screenings were shown and reached an audience of 6.000 after all. 25 years and 3,441 films later the budget has multiplied by 15, three employees work for the festival all the year round, the number of films has doubled, and the audience figure has risen to well over 25.000. 30 volunteers are involved in selecting the films, making the announcements and hosting the guests.

The anniversary festival in November will not offer a nostalgic review.Indeed, the festival makers want to move forward. In a panel discussion, Kufahl and other festival directors will talk about the changing meaning and growing significance of film festivals. “In the past it was enough to present a good selection of films. Nowadays, film festivals provide the basic service of film culture in many cities. They are keeping the attraction of the cinema alive and work in domains like film education, talent promotion, and film distribution and production”, says Kufahl.

On the other hand, film and festival history will be given a significant focus in an exciting special program. At the beginning of the year Kufahl discovered a private film collection near Braunschweig. The collection includes more than 2.000 short and long films of almost every important director in film history. The Braunschweig International film festival will present a selection of those prints, which are not available on DVD or in German film archives. “At the end of the 35mm-printage, we want to take up the cudgels for the preservation of film material in public film archives”, says Kufahl.

With a cineastic tour of the town on October 28 th, the filmfest will remember all venues it has used in the course of the last 25 years. The Hamburg-based short film project ”A Wall is a Screen” will turn façades of these former venues into public screens. Start and finish of the tour will be the only place where filmfest fans do not have to shed a sentimental tear: the UNIVERSUM cinema, closed in 2006, renovated and reopened in 2009 – by Kufahl and five other members of the filmfest association.

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