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The Network - 22/06/2005


Review of the second Austrian Film Week


Among the films screened at the Cinéma des Cinéastes were eight feature films, the most recent being Crash Test Dummies, shown at the last Berlin festival, Welcome Home, due to be released in France this autumn, and Silentium, the most successful film of 2004 in the Austrian theatres of the Europa Cinemas network. Once again, the Cinéma des Cinéastes devoted a substantial proportion of its programming to promoting European filmmaking by hosting the second Austrian Film Week from 8 to 14 June. Organised by the association Laterna Magica in collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Forum, and with the involvement of the French professional organisation ARP in particular, the event aimed to raise the profile of a number of recent films that were previously virtually unknown outside their homeland.

It certainly cannot be said that there is a lack of distribution of Austrian films abroad. The success enjoyed in recent years by Michael Haneke, the event's promoter (along with Sylvie Testud), has made it possible to raise awareness of these young directors, whose films are now at least circulating at the festivals. Recently, the extraordinary shorts by Virgil Widrich (Copy Shop, Fast Film) have achieved international recognition, and feature films by a number of female directors - Struggle by Ruth Mader, Lovely Rita and Hotel by Jessica Hausner, Nordrand (Northern Skirts) and Böse Zellen (Free Radicals) by Barbara Albert - have been distributed in several countries. However, if we look beyond experimental cinema and those films that are not afraid to promote their radicalism, the twenty or so films produced every year that fall into the category of art house cinema have a relatively low profile in the country, in the face of competition from American and popular German films. (T)Raumschiff Surprise (Michael Herbig, DE), for example, was the most successful film at the Austrian box office in 2004. Nevertheless, the situation appears to have improved for Austrian films, with 24 films having been distributed in that particular year alone. The list of the 50 films that attracted the most admissions at the 19 Austrian theatres in the Europa Cinemas network is relatively revealing in this respect: whilst only 3 Austrian films featured in this top 50 in 2003, 6 made the list in 2004, with 4 films achieving more than 10,000 admissions in these theatres. At the same time, the share of German films in the top 50 shows no signs of weakening.

The most successful film in Europa Cinema's Austrian theatres last year was Silentium (2004), by Wolfgang Murnberger, with more than 43,000 admissions out of a total of almost 200,000 for the film throughout Austria - a success that immediately made the film one of the ten most successful Austrian films of all time (, 16 May 2005). This caustic thriller, which is set in Salzburg and has so far not managed to achieve the same level of success outside the German-speaking countries, was presented during the Paris event, carrying off the public prize. It is due to be shown soon in Karlovy Vary, as part of the Variety critics' selection.

Another film that may manage to achieve foreign distribution, Crash Test Dummies (2004), which was presented in the Forum section of the last Berlin festival, is a comedy drama which, due to its tone and its themes, could find itself being compared with productions from Central Europe. In this film from Jörg Kalt, his first feature-length production, a young Romanian couple travel to Vienna, attracted by a scheme that promises to make them some easy money. However, they soon find themselves in difficulty, split up and have a number of encounters that are more or less enjoyable for them (but most often amusing for us), before meeting up again at the border, just as the radio announces that 10 new countries have joined the EU and a mysterious cow blocks the road in front of their car.

Welcome Home (2004), the new feature film from documentary maker and filmmaker Andreas Gruber, whose work is a regular feature of the European festivals, is already guaranteed distribution abroad. Released in Austria in March, this film dealing with a problematic "voyage" to Ghana in the company of two Austrian police officers returning an illegal immigrant, is set to be released in France in the autumn through Limelight Distribution. The film has been selected in the official competition of the International Film Festival of Moscow.

As far as documentaries are concerned, Austrian cinema can now boast a distinguished new director in the form of Hubert Sauper, the event's guest of honour. Well before achieving the success we all know about with Darwin's Nightmare, which was awarded the Europa Cinemas Label at the Venice Days festival, the Austrian filmmaker had directed a fascinating documentary in 1998 entitled Kisangani Diary-Far from Rwanda, followed by a debate after its screening.

Finally, it is worth noting that the films presented during the event should soon be showing in a number of French towns.

Laterna Magica:

Crash Test Dummies:


Welcome Home:

Jb Selliez

Pictures: Welcome Home (this page) and Crash Test Dummies