I am on the plane home from, Hamburg. I just watched one of my favorite films, The Royal Tenenbaums, on the head rest screens. There are about 250 hours of crap on the inflight films, but 3 or 4 films worth watching. On the way out to Hamburg, I watched a great film, The Angels’ Share.
The festival has ended, and it was an amazing experience. I was refreshed to see 2 guys, Ale (Ah-Le) and Boris work so passionately at their festival. It was refreshing to know that across the ocean, and all over, individuals like my new friends at Radar are on a mission to screen films that transcend the regular formula.
DAY 4 I last blogged before the screening of Cinema Six. That screening took place at a cinema about 10 minutes up the street from the festival hub at little spot called, B-Movie. The theatre held about 50 people, and It was almost sold out. The crowd was a mix of buzzed and bawdy folks. They had come for comedy, and had spent the prior hours of the evening drinking and getting their heads right to enjoy several great examples of American comedy. Both shorts, Tumbleweed, and The Orderly received roaring laughter in all the right spots, and were appreciated for their incredible cinematography. I was proud to present the crowd with such fine examples of American film. Cinema Six had the crowd laughing throughout. Four drunks sat behind me, who at random times throughout the film, felt the urge to “cheers” each other by clinking their bottles together. Each time they finished another ale, they would roll their empty bottles between my feet and down the pitch of the floor to the front of the theatre. As the bottles noisily made their way between the feet of the rest of the audience they would pop open another, and clang them all together. Any other time I would have been outraged by their poor manners, but in light of the quirky, potty-mouthed, comedy of Cinema Six, the disruption added the right amount of small theatre charm, and fit right in with the tambour of the film.
Writer, director and star of the film, Mark Potts, got a slight chuckle every time he showed his odd face on the screen, reminding me of something that was proven throughout the festival...Europeans are quite entertained by our queer ways...us Americans are just a bit off for them.
After Cinema Six, Attis headed and I returned to our hostel, The Superbude (which translates to Super Shack). I contacted filmmakers Pott’s, Verava and Cambell, and let them know how their films had done, then headed back to the Hub. At the end of each evening, we would all gather there to watch films, and unwind.
As a juror, I was not always able to see the films I would have to judge at their regularly screened times, so I would take advantage of the theatre availability at the end of the night to give them all a fair screening, sans distractions and in a theatre setting. These were some of the best times of the festival. It was just a few of us, and as always with intimate crowds, and a bit of social lubricant, the discussions about the films went into the early hours of the morning.
DAY 5 Big day, lots to do that evening. I had presenting, and viewing duties, at 3 separate cinemas: B-Movie, 3001 and Golem. The 3001 was incredible and probably the coolest of the venues. It was unlike the other venues, in that it had the tall ceilings and cool red velvet curtains that parted every time the projector started. After the film’s completion the curtains would slowly close. There were small lights that covered the 20 foot ceilings, giving the impression of stars when the theatre lights went down. The entire building had a 1930‘s decorative style and was nestled off the main street, and down an alley. Avenue D, by Victoria’s Don Avlo and Beth Vianes-Soliz, screened at 3001 with another Mexican film called El Elefante Blanco. I introduced Avenue D and did a short Q&A after, then hopped a cab for Golem to watch Sensiz Yasanmaz- a musical film, in competition, about Turkish music.
Next stop was Golem. Most of the cinemas were within 10 minutes by foot, but Golem was a bit farther away from all the other venues. Golem was on a street that runs parallel to the massive harbor that butts up to Hamburg. The scene on the harbor is fantastic and surreal. The largest ocean liners and container ships I had ever seen were down there, and over 100 massive cranes line the docks. When the cab pulled out in front of Golem I got out and went inside. To enter I passed through 2 very heavy black velvet curtains, only to find a trendy bar with a ship theme. It was very nice, all dark wood, dimly lit and full of German “trendies”. I bumbled around looking for anything that looked like a cinema. There were several sets of black drapes and I parted them all only to find walls behind them. I finally broke down and asked the bartender, a very tall, thin German, with a weird beard where the cinema was. He lead me over to a wall with a massive bookcase. It was then, that one of the coolest things from the trip happened. The bartender reached behind a set of Nietzsche books and popped a latch, and like a scene out of Scooby freaking Doo, the bookcase swung open to reveal a spiral set of metal stairs that lead to the basement, and a 45 seat screening room. The film had already started, and unfortunately was a bit slow. Although it was beautifully shot, the meandering clarinet melodies were lulling me to sleep. I endured as long as I could, and headed up the stairs to marvel at the trap door.
I boogied from Golem, and headed back to the hostel to check on Attis. He was Facebooking his eyes out, and didn’t want to come out, so I walked to B-Movie to Introduce another American Cinema Program from Film ExChange featuring: The Strange Ones, Pillow and 5 Shells. Afterwards I headed to the Reeperbahn to snap some pictures of the night life, and catch some of the neon in all its glory.
The area down there is fascinating to a small town dude like me. Its bizarre to watch their nightlife. Hamburg never seems to go to sleep. Even when walking home at 4am you can see people in bars, spilling out into the street laughing and having a great time. I would imagine the city and its allure from over a hundred years ago.You can feel the ghosts of sailors carousing the cobblestone, rowdy, drunk and looking for action. The mix of German language, propositions from prostitutes in broken English, mingle with echoes of past fights between sailors in muddy streets. The Reeperbahn is haunted by screams of lost lovers, calling out into the night, and if you listen closely you can hear the howls of men drunken and lonely, dreading their inevitable return to the icy sea. Faceless men living each moment as if it was their last on that strip of road where vice and debauchery have defeated temperance.
I returned to my hostel, and laid awake in my thoughts. What raw energy pulses through Hamburg. I contemplated her rich culture and thought about how a city like this struggles to maintain an identity that would likely be considered atrocious by most of the world. In 5 days I had witnessed a zoo where the animals roamed free and prostitution was legal. Each day I walked down Bein Grunen Street, buildings covered in graffiti, and home of 4 indie cinemas in less than 10 minutes walk from one another. I was in love with Hamburg and the neighborhood of St. Pauli. She was bold, and unyielding to the restrictions of the world around her.
DAY 6 The realization of the trip coming to a close was on me from the moment I awoke. These trips always leave me with different states of sadness and joy. They are so refreshing, but also take their toll when I return to my normal life. I woke early and popped on the documentary called El Elefante Blanco. It had screened the night before with Avenue D, but I couldn’t stay to watch it at 3001 so I spent the morning watching it in my room.
Afterwards I met up with my new friend Jon Alloway. On his first night in Hamburg we discovered that he and I had mutual friends in L.A. John is a member of the Cacophony Society, a band of Anarchists and misfit pranksters that have chapters in L.A. and San Francisco. I wanted to see his documentary, Into the Zone, so we met at The Hub. It was hilarious. The documentary deserves its own blog, or better yet a screening with Jon to explain the ideals of the Cacophony Society. I think I may be a member now....or maybe always was, and didn’t realize it. Into the Zone featured footage of pranks dating back to 1978, and was narrated by Cacophony member Chuck Palahniuk (Author of Fight Club). As I watched the documentary, I found myself identifying with the pranks on society and buffoonery in the face of authority. Some of the tamer pranks included 100 people showing up at the airport dressed like Santa Claus and trying to pass concrete filled stuffed animals through customs, or hordes of clowns boarding buses, or loading up several people in an elevator in towels, so that when the doors swung open next it looks like a scene from a giant shower. I can just imagine the looks on the faces of the people in the bank or office, quietly waiting for the elevator dumbfounded when the doors swung open.
Since it was Friday night, the Hub filled up after all the films had run, and was live til 4am. I tended bar all night with Boris, and talked a length with Ale and John about punk rock, pranking, breaking laws and paying the price. It was a great experience. We jammed and bonded, and shared stories of our self-destruction, as well as, our survival.
FINAL DAY, FINAL ENTRY The awards ceremony was held at Golem. I only stayed for about an hour while the awards were given out, but spent several hours with the other 2 jurors mulling over our decisions. We were given the duty of deciding best films in the categories of feature, documentary, short, animation and music. Boris and Ale decided on the Best of Fest.
The awards were as follows:
BEST FEATURE - THE DYNAMITER -- BEST DOCUMENTARY - EL ELEFANTE BLANCO-- BEST SHORT - THE CART-- BEST ANIMATION - LAULU-- BEST MUSIC - MY FATHER AND THE MAN IN BLACK-- BEST OF FEST - CAMP CASSEROLE--
Farewell Germany, you were an awakening and a breath of fresh air that I will not soon forget.
I got an email from Cacophony Joh this morning. Seems he wandered away from the awards ceremony at Golem last night and boarded a Russian U-boat docked in the harbor. This was much to the chagrin of the U-boat’s night watchman. Fortunately Jon was able to use his quick wit, and experience with avoiding arrest to walk away from this potentially volatile situation.
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