Lise Lyng Falkenberg's Point of View

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

OFF15 – Odense International Film Festival

This year Odense International Film Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary. On the 24. – 30. August international short films and animated shorts could be seen for free in the two cinemas at Café Biografen here in Odense, Denmark, and people came from all over the world to take part. I remember when there used to be documentaries in the film festival competitions as well, but not anymore, so this year we had to make do with only three competition categories, namely the main category, animated shorts and Danish short films. Still, more than 101 short films from 36 different countries competed and many other activities took place during the festival.
In past years I have complained about it being impossible to get a seat at the screenings, as only schools were able to book seats, and not the general audience or press. As the two cinemas only seat 50 to 100 people each, the general audience was therefore turned away at the door, if schools had booked, which was rather annoying, especially if you’d been hired to review the films! This year everyone was able to book seats in advance, though, so I got to see what I wanted and I even had my daughter with me for two of the screenings.
There were many good short films and animations this year and here are the winners:
Winners of the main competition: The International Grand Prix (The HCA Award): “Over” by Jörn Threlfall, England.  The International Storyteller Award: “Leidi” by Simon Mesa Soto, Colombia. The International Artist Award: “Rearranged” by Ewa Górzna, Finland. Special Mention: “Discipline” by Christophe M. Saber, Switzerland.
Winners of the Danish competition: The Danish Grand Prix: “Mommy” Milad Alami, Sweden/Denmark. FilmFyn Talent Award: “Our Fathers’ Sons” by Ulaa Salim, Denmark.
Winners of the animation competition: Boerge Ring Award: ”Dinner for few” by Nassos Vakalis, USA. Animation Talent Award: “No man’s land” by David Adler, Denmark
Other winners: The Audience Award: “Our Fathers´ Sons” by Ulaa Salim, Denmark. The Youth Film Award: “Antiman” by Gavin Ramoutar, Guyana. The Robert short film Award: “Mommy” by Milad Alami, Denmark.
My personal favourite film was the crazy, hilarious “Very Lonely Cock”, which was only represented in the animation category and didn’t win a thing. In fact, none of the films that I liked won anything, as the ones that won were most often very bleak, harsh and violent, dealing with heavy social problems. To me it felt as if the juries of the competitions had completely forgotten that this is a film festival for fantastic short films; at least they didn’t reward fantasy, magic and imagination at all.
Had I been in the jury, I would have picked “Splintertime” by Mr. Rosto, Belgium/France/Netherlands, as the winner of the main competition. I would have had “All Your Favourite Shows!” by Danny Madden, USA, winning the Storyteller Award, “Seven times a day we bemoan our lot and at night we get up to avoid dreaming” by Susann Marie Hempel, Germany, winning the Artists Award and “Klementhro” by Sue Dunham, Canada, getting a special mention. As for the Danish competition, I think it should have been won by “Whole” by William Reynish with “Fibers” by Nynne Steen Mors winning the talent award. As winners of the animation competition, I would have picked “Very Lonely Cock” by Leonid Shmelkov, Russia, with “Aubade” by Mauro Carraro, Switzerland, winning the talent award. Finally, I would have loved if “La Fleche Delta” by Francesco Vecchi, France/Italy, “Benedito Machine V – Pull the Trigger” by Jossie Malis, Spain and “Vagabond” by Pedro Carvalho, Denmark or “Tsunami” by Sofie Kampmark, Denmark, had won the additional awards.
The magic lacked in the award winning films this year, but I found it elsewhere, especially in OFF Junior and the Focus Programmes. The Focus Programmes consisted of “everything else” that was going on in connection with OFF, like screenings of old silent movies, open air feature films (like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “2001 – A Space Odyssey” and “Birdman” to mention a few), talks with directors and actors, dance, yoga, concerts, food etc. OFF Junior on the other hand was the screening of children’s short films, feature films and TV series. I went to see the OFF Junior programme “Best OFF Buster 3+”, but when I reached the cinema, so many schools with 8 and 9 year old children had booked seats that the venue had decided to alter the screening to a programme for kids who were 8+ instead of 3+. When I told the staff that I’d booked a seat in order to write about the 3+ programme, he (there was only one!) quickly found another venue in the nearby Student House where he screened the programme for me. A few parents with young kids tagged along and we had a great time as the kids could sit/lie on pillows on the floor. The four animated shorts were great as well, especially the funny and surprising “Pawo” by Antje Heyn, Germany, and the cute and beautiful “The Tie” by An Vrombaut, Belgium. The kids seemed to go for “The Little Bird and the Squirrel” by Lena von Döhren, Switzerland, though.
Anyway, I found the service of the young guy in the staff who arranged this special screening quite magic. Thank you so much! I’ll be back next year, when it’s my 30th anniversary as a film critic!

Monday, August 24, 2015

H. C. Andersen Festivals 2015

The third annual H. C. Andersen Festivals (with an s!) took place here in Odense, Denmark on 16-23 August 2015. There had been problems the previous years with no public transportation, standing room only and no big screens, but surely, these problems must have been solved by now, right?
Wrong. Looking through the programme, I could see that I had to skip the events that I wanted to see the most, namely a production of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Flying Trunk” featuring the Italian acrobats eVènti Verticali, a music and performance show of Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl” and a dance performance of Andersen’s “Thumbelina”. Reason? Standing room only and no public transportation in the city centre after dark. Oh well, I had to find something else to see then, and during daytime!
Monday I went to the Art Street, but as usual, there was not much art in the street, only the usual carpet and cushions on wooden pallets. Eventually, I managed to find a few funny sculptures of animals and I liked the horses the best. Like previous years, artworks by the usual suspects such as Narcis Gironell, Quim Domene, Laurent Chabolle and Anne Brérot could be found in Gallery Rasmus.
Two out of five stars: **
The censored art exhibition in the Art Exhibition Building was next, but unfortunately it was as awful as usual and this year I wasn’t even allowed to vote for the best work, as I was on crutches due to a partial knee replacement seven weeks ago! Of the ones who were offered a ballot paper, I saw several using the exhibited paintings as blotting pads…
Zero out of five stars:

Tuesday I didn’t see anything, as I had to recover from the day before, but Wednesday I went to see “a whimsical installation full of magic and your own adventure” as it said in the festival programme. A mirror maze was supposed to be situated in the installation along with big puppets on a string, but when I arrived (within the opening hours), the installation – which was just a small pavilion with room for a few kids – was closed. What a disappointment!
Zero out of five stars:

Then I went on to Brandts Square, which the programme had promised would be turned into Aladdin’s cave with belly dancers, genies, exotic spices and real live camels, but there was nothing of that sort. Only a few paper lanterns and more cushions on wooden pallets. The local symphony orchestra was just finishing a concert on the amphi stage, but I couldn’t find a place to sit and watch it as all seats were taken and Danes never offer their seats to anybody, no matter if you are handicapped, pregnant, old or whatever. Furthermore, the busses by Brandts had been cancelled, not only after dark, but during daytime as well, so I struggled to get home.
One out of five stars (but only because the orchestra was good!): *
In the evening I went to see a “light and projection show” called Birds of Passage at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum near my home. The entrance to the museum had been turned into a kind of screen showing a ten minutes long projection of Andersen’s paper art combined with music and coloured lights. It was quite pretty and kind of soothing, but hardly any people had found their way to the museum and as usual, it was difficult to get back home as well as the busses only ran once an hour during evening.
Three out of five stars: ***
Thursday I went to “Glamour at Brandts”. The programme had promised a red carpet event at Brandts Cultural Centre with paparazzi, total make-overs, music, cocktail bars serving champagne, selfie opportunities etc., but to be honest, it was hard to spot any glam at all. In the entrance hall, there was a single DJ and an empty bar selling overpriced champagne. The place was totally deserted, but in the next room about a hundred women were crammed together waiting for their make-overs. One hairstylist, one make-up artist and one fashion stylist were to help all of the women one at a time, so not even a tenth would be able to have their make-over done, as the event lasted three hours only. I decided that I would rather see the rest of the centre, and who needs a make-over anyway?
I went upstairs to the exhibition “Danish Fashion Now” where in one room clothes by Danish designers were on display and in the other you could see dresses made for the rich and famous, for instance Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary. Some of the dresses were lined up on each side of a red carpet, so there WAS one, but not the way that the programme had described it. On the second floor, I saw the exhibition “Selfie” where you could see selfies used as art, but there were no selfie-points or selfie opportunities for the guests, which I thought would have been fun.
It is safe to say that the glamour event was a big flop, but luckily the centre’s permanent art collection with a large number of classic and modern works by both Danish and international artist was open. I especially fell in love with Eva Koch’s 3D mapping on the plaster cast of the classic statue Hera.
The “Glamour on Brandts” event I can only give two out of five stars: **
The permanent art exhibition I’ll give four out of five stars: ****
The main attraction of the H. C. Andersen Festivals each year is the big 3D light show on Odense town hall façade by “We Create Magic”. It is so popular that more shows had been added this year, but alas it is still standing room only and with no public transportation nearby, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to see it. On the other hand, reviewing the festivals without mentioning the light show is like going to a Muse concert and only write about the warm up bands. Saturday night my daughter and I therefore took a chance, caught a bus an hour prior to the show, walked the last bit and were able to sit on the huge sculpture “Oceania” by Svend Wiig Hansen on the town square! There were thousands of people standing up around us, so we weren’t able to see the beginning of the show, which was a ten minutes dance show by The Royal Danish Ballet School on a runway in front of the town hall. The following ten minutes were what we had come to see anyway and this year we saw the animated stories of “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” projected onto the façade. It was truly magic, much better than “Clumsy Hans” last year, although not as good as the show in 2013 with “Thumbelina”, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and others. The evening ended with a sing-along and then we CRAWLED all the way back home and I haven’t been able to walk since!
Four out of five stars: ****
There were more than 500 events at the festival this year, so of course the above is not representative of the entire festival, but it is clear that it suffered from a number of (recurrent) problems, the gravest being:
1.      Several of the events didn’t match the description in the programme or had been cancelled and this year most of the really interesting ones weren’t even free anymore, so you had to pay fairly steep entrance fees.
2.      The festival wasn’t handicap-friendly with standing room only or many stairs to and from events, so people using wheel chairs, canes, crutches etc. were prevented from participating in most of them.
3.      The public transportation was crap!!! There was no transportation in or out of the city centre, the few busses on the ring around city were scarce and therefore crowded and many events ended after the busses had stopped running at night.
I hope that the private businesses that have funded this festival along with the town and the region intend to do something about these problems, as they tarnish what would otherwise be a great festival. At least I think it is sad if the festival is going to be solely for the young, rich and healthy in the future.