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Phillip Bergson


Writing about Films and Festivals.

 

Film Critic, UK, member of Fipresci

 

Winner of the Student Journalist of the Year competition in the UK weekly New Statesman, as a Classics Scholar Phillip Bergson then founded the Oxford Film Festival and, on graduating, was selected by "The Sunday Times" as a 'New Critic' and in the same week began broadcasting on film for many BBC Radio programmes. A contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement", "TES", "Screen International", "Film Bulletin", "Film a Doba" inter alia, he also worked for the "European Script Fund", has scripted shorts and features (that have been produced and released) and, fluent in eight-and-a-half languages, currently programmes and advises several international film festivals. At the National Media Museum in his native Yorkshire, he created the "Eurovisions" project, to promote classic and contemporary European cinema.

As a Jury Member

 


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Mannheim - Heidelberg: Meetings with Remarkable Films

With its 67th edition the International Film Festival, now running in both Mannheim and Heidelberg, adjacent antique and bustling cities  south of Frankfurt on Germany's celebrated Weinstrasse, continues to draw into its net debut features (and some documentaries) as well as "discoveries" from quite literally around the globe.

After the Berlinale, it remains the oldest film festival in Germany, and the seventh oldest in the world and is determinedly true to its origins, as a Springtime  Kultur-und Dokumentarfilmewoche, that blossomed into an autumn rendez-vous of revelations in the 1960s, when the first films of Francois Truffaut, Agnes Varda, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Kryzystof Kieslowski, and Theo Angelopoulos were premiered and prized in cinemas in the Quadrat (the grid-based centre of Mannheim, which predates New York's street plan, alphabetising streets in the largely rebuilt modern centre of hotels, shops, bars and gemuetlich international eateries).Today there is  a large and tasty Turkish quarter, though there is  a more historic Baroque castle,now part of the University, and a plaque on the impressive post-war synagogue confirms that W.A.Mozart once stayed there with his mother on one of his concert tours.It was the current festival director, film critic Dr Michael Koetz, who took over in 1992, first changing the name of the event and then cleverly in 1994 twinning it with screenings in  nearby Heidelberg, Germany's oldest and justly most celebrated university, which effectively doubled the audiences for the selections, variously presented in art-deco art-houses in the picturesque centre or  purpose-built pavilions in front of the palace (mostly ruined by Louis XIV or his mercenaries),or on abandoned US miltary land,or this year in a twin-tent in the more central Marktplatz.

The Mothership is still Mannheim's modern but congenial City Hall with two  comfortably-designed temporary cinemas, and ample spaces for professional guests, public post-film discussions, and for some happy fewer invitees midnight gatherings on a upper club level awash with fresh pretzels,beers and local wines,and this year an occasional thematic  treat of liqueur from Tallinn, handsomely complimenting a double-bill of excellent  Estonian features, Take it or Leave It,and Fire Lily which curiously both focussed on the apparently prevalent problem posed by unexpected or unwanted babies on the Baltic!But it was a previous prize-winner from Slovenia who instigated dancing one night there.On this Rok,Mannheim builds its reputations.

Although there are some matinees of films for (clearly not unerwuenscht) local children, audiences are clearly dedicated film-lovers who are determinedly undeterred by the lack of familiar names on the credits or faces in films from as far afield as Chile, China, the frozen north of Finland or the torrid fields of Morocco,Yemen,Afghanistan, to cite only some of the 25 countries represented in and out of competition.The films unreel in tandem in both cities,and in addition to the well-attended City Hall screenings the delightful Kino Atlantis, a charming art-house with a long history is again a popular venue with up to four shows a day throughout the 10-day wondrous feast of film.

Indeed the Festival opened on the 15th in Heidelberg (and runs in both cities until and including 25th November) with a delicious confection Tazzeka, a delightful  first feature by  Paris-based Jean-Philippe Gaud, who scripted, and edited as well as capably directed this charming story of a boy raised to love cooking by his grandmother in a small village in Morocco. He grows up to become a gifted potential master-chef in his local cafe,and is   encouraged by a maitre  who happens to be passing,  to seek his fortune in the culinary capital Paris, with some well-observed reversals en route ,of course. The huge afternoon audience for the repeat afternoon screening in Mannheim of this film was testament to its positive word of mouth.Thoroughly well-cast (and I trust well-fed) and a deserved toque for leading actor Madi Belem.

 

Phillip Bergson                            www.iffmh.de

 

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