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Oldenburg Film Festival

27th Oldenburg International Film Festival September 16 - 20, 2020 (virtual edition)

Rated among the top 5 Film Festivals worldwide for Independent Films by American film critic Chris Gore in his esteemed 'Ultimate Film Festival Guide', and ranked »Top 25 Coolest Festivals in the World« by MovieMaker, Oldenburg has fostered its success with a strong commitment to innovative and independent filmmaking.

Labelled ‘the European Sundance’ by Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and Screen International, amongst others, Oldenburg has evolved while preserving its intimate atmosphere and founding purpose: to celebrate and support the diverse voices and visions of independent filmmakers, to honor the creativity of the artists upon which the Festival depends, and to create a unique experience and inspiring meeting place for filmmakers, audiences, and media professionals.

The only festival in the world to play films in jail and invite festival guests with inmates.



Don't Tell Me You Can't Sing - international premiere of Sabine Timoteo's debut film

(Still from "Don't Tell Me You Can't Sing". Courtesy of Filmfest Oldenburg)


Sabine Timoteo is a well-known actress in her native Switzerland. She also co-wrote the Philip Gröning film "Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot" (My Brother's Name is Robert and He is an Idiot), which premiered in competition at Berlinale this year. This time she wears the director's hat for an avant-garde film that starts out quite experimental and dreamlike. "Don't Tell Me You Can't Sing" (Sag mir nicht, du nicht singen kannst), which she also wrote and co-edited with Doro Müggler and Tatjana Werik, is unique and somewhat disorienting. 
Timoteo's protagonist Claire (Doro Müggler) seems a bit out of sorts at the kindergarten where she works. The children have blurry blacked out faces as they run about, almost as if they are redacted parts of a legal document. Watching these children go about their routine with blacked out faces is disarming, it makes me think that perhaps the children's faces are covered to keep their privacy. This theory is blown out of the water when a cat also has its face blurred out and also Claire's husband and son although not for long. Claire visits a hospital and we encounter a woman who is crumpled on the floor. Out of context, this scene looks as if it could be a scene from a Japanese horror film. Claire leaves her old life behind and sets out on her own, interacting with various strangers at a train station. She is very upfront with these strangers, directing probing questions at them. Love, children, sex, singing and beauty are just some of the topics touched upon.
(Still from "Don't Tell Me You Can't Sing". Courtesy of Filmfest Oldenburg)
Disturbing isn't really the right word to describe this viewing experience, although the start of the film almost feels like a strange experiment where a child thought it might be fun to scribble out some faces. The aesthetics makes me think that Timoteo shot on film although she likely shot digitally and just added certain touches to make it feel like film. Later on we see the blurred out faces less, as Claire gets closer to finding Clara. She's also more self-assured and less frenetic. It's not a traditional narrative film, rather the method of storytelling, sound design, editing, zooms and camera positioning all contribute to its special quality. The score is very subtle and light, just the right amount of additional light piano and guitar tracks.
The sound design provided by Stefan Schischkanov adds an interesting touch, particularly in one scene when Claire's thoughts and actual conversation she's having get jumbled together. The English subtitles of her thoughts about leaving and the dialogue with her son is off-putting but effectual. Claire's voice-over on the train describes a not-so-innocent encounter with a man with big lips that she remembers having as a young girl. It's unsettling but not entirely coherent. The interactions that she has with Carla, which may or may not be real, are a tad confusing but make more sense as the film progresses. Claire searches for Clara and eventually finds her, allowing her to finally sing. Although it's not a conventional story, it actually makes more sense the more one thinks about it. 
Timoteo's debut feature, which made its international premiere at the Oldenburg International Film Festival this month is a significant addition to the experimental film genre. It will be interesting to see what film projects she has in store for us. "Don't Tell Me You Can't Sing" should be seen by more audiences and will likely do well at international film festivals. 

("Don't Tell Me You Can't Sing" film team arrive at the Honoree Gala before their international premiere DP Xavier Michel, director/writer/producer/editor Sabine Timoteo, Johannes Ryser, & actress/producer/co-editor Doro Müggler. Photo courtesy of © Maik Almstedt / Filmfest Oldenburg)  


Switzerland 2017

Director: Sabine Timoteo 

Screenwriter: Sabine Timoteo 

Cast: Doro Müggler, Marc Brügger, Leandra Marisa Wiedmer, Mars Kopp, Neemee Kübler

Producers: Sabine Timoteo, Doro Müggler

Cinematographer: Xavier Michel

Editors: Sabine Timoteo, Doro Müggler, Tatjana Werik

Music and sound: Stefan Schischkanov

75 Min. | German, French with English subtitles
International Premiere 




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