In the year of Mannheim's 400th anniversary, the festival committee under the direction of Michael Kötz decided to move from the center of town to where the city had started as a fishing village on the banks of the Rhine. So in the Rheinterrassen Park, large tents were built and two movie theaters called Zeltpalast (tent palace) were furnished, each with a thousand seats. The festival was also brought forward from November to October. The nice weather helped also make it a success also in Heidelberg where a new tent was built in Karlsplatz.
The 36 feature films chosen from about 800 submissions by a six member selection committee were shown twice, once in both cities. Guests could also see the movies either in the market and press screening room or on 14 wide screen monitors fed directly from a central server. A good shuttle bus service helped drive around the spectators and guests between the different locations. For long screenings, the chairs became uncomfortable and sometimes the rumbling noises of passing boats on the Rhine could be heard. The public always seemed attentive and enthusiastic, moved by many movies. The Mannheim meetings, held from October 14th to 18th in the same tents, were also successful under the efficient management of Gudula Meinzolt. Many production agreements were concluded in those lively discussions and round table events also provided new ways to approach art house film distribution. Mannheim meetings become the starting point of some film careers as for example this year by the presentation of Portuguese director Teresa Prata Sleepwalking Land (Terra Sonâmbula) in the International Discoveries section.
Apart from the International Competition which showed many fine movies and the International Discoveries which included a few gems, as always, the festival presents a focus on a country. This year, China's offerings contained many good movies as my colleague Sasa Jankovic says in his article. There was also an Ingmar Bergman homage in which I could see again The Magic Flute (Trollflöjten). To read German subtitles for a Mozart opera sung in Swedish was an illuminating example of the power of art in this world to which the festival director alluded in his opening speech. (Luc Chaput)
International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg: www.iffmh.de