Sascha Keilholz and Frédéric Jaeger • Festival director and head of programme, International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg
“2020 is the year of debuts, the first steps taken by a whole squad of promising directors”
by Teresa Vena
- We talked to Sascha Keilholz and Frédéric Jaeger, the new director and head of programme of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg, which goes online from 12-22 November
To mark the occasion of the first edition of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg (IFFMH) under new management, we met up with festival director Sascha Keilholz and head of programme Frédéric Jaeger. Owing to the coronavirus-related closure of cinemas in Germany, the festival is being held online from 12-22 November. We asked Keilholz and Jaeger about the focus of this year's event and about their view on the festival's traditions as well as on a programme that is committed to projecting a positive image of women and their role in the film industry.
Cineuropa: How do you position yourself in relation to the last few editions of the festival? Which aspects will be emphasised under the new management and which ones swept aside?
Sascha Keilholz: Good film festivals constantly question themselves. After all, it's all about feeling and daring to try something new. We strongly believe in including the past. This can be seen in the fact that we have scattered several connections to the history of the festival throughout the programme, from the latest works by filmmakers such as Frederick Wiseman and Hong Sangsoo, who showed their very early films here, to the retrospective and rediscoveries in the children's film festival. And this year, for the first time, we are presenting the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Award for Best Screenplay, in memory of the great auteur Fassbinder.
Which other festivals do you think you compete with in particular? What measures do you need to take in order to secure a strong position?
Frédéric Jaeger: There are cinephilic connections to Hamburg, Munich, Leipzig, Cologne and Berlin, discursive ones to Duisburg and Oberhausen, and we share our love of experimentation with festivals like Underdox and Transit Filmfest. But these are just a few examples. In fact, it is great fun to think about the future together with colleagues from festivals all over the country within the framework of the AG Filmfestival, which we co-founded. Things get heated and controversial at times because everyone is very passionate about cinema.
You say, in one of your press releases, that a “feminist” thread runs through the programme. Can you outline this in more detail?
SK: It begins with our retrospective “Le deuxième souffle – The Second Generation 1968-83”. Interestingly enough, nearly all of the films made by men during this period deal almost maniacally with their own childhood in post-war France. The films made by women reflect the “here and now” much more clearly. Nelly Kaplan's La fiancée du pirate is a very pointed reckoning with patriarchal structures. Mon Coeur est rouge by Michèle Rosier celebrates the freedom of its protagonist over the course of one day. Simone Barbès ou la vertu by Marie-Claude Treilhou positions the extremely independent lesbian protagonist in a porn cinema. And Neige by Juliet Berto and Jean-Henri Roger hands a bar owner the tragic role of a puppet master in a drug-fuelled milieu. A central film from this period, which we had in our selection but unfortunately cannot show online, is Jeanne Dielman by Chantal Akerman. This is nothing less than a feminist manifesto. These films and their makers are clearly pioneers for many of the women directors whose latest movies can be seen here this year. We, as the programming team, are interested because we find a diverse range of voices exciting and are looking for new perspectives.
Are there any film productions or regions that have particularly surprised or inspired you?
SK: Iranian cinema was remarkably strong this year, and there were also many exciting options from South America. With regard to our retrospective, it was exciting to confirm just how rich contemporary French cinema is.
FJ: 2020 has been a very special year because the shifts in the festival and film launch calendar have meant that many films that had already been announced were still waiting to be screened. The great thing about it is that, in a way, it has also created some space for films that would otherwise not always receive so much attention. What is reflected in the IFFMH programme is a general trend: 2020 is the year of debuts, the first steps taken by a whole squad of promising directors.
How would you characterise the programme? What are the highlights?
SK: The programme makes it quite clear where we want to go. There are very different – in the best sense of the word – idiosyncratic voices. Among the established directors, we should certainly mention Frederick Wiseman, who is closely associated with our festival. His City Hall is a great film and an important document in times of great political instability in the USA.
FJ: Looking at the programme in retrospect, certain connections emerge which ultimately express the filmmakers' confrontation with the human condition. One thread running through it is feminism; another is the examination of death in films such as the mother-daughter drama Asia [+see also:
film profile], the colourful animated film Marona's Fantastic Tale [+see also:
film profile] in our children's film festival, our opening movie The Death of Cinema and My Father Too [+see also:
film profile] and the hopeful Italian father-son tragedy Una Promessa [+see also:
interview: Gianluca and Massimiliano D…
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.