Astra Zoldnere
Zoldnere is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen offers an oasis of innovative, experimental and artistic film.

International Short Film Festival Oberhausen is one of the oldest and most prestigious short film festivals in the world. At the festival’s eighth edition, a group of young German filmmakers issued the Oberhausen Manifesto in which they declared the old or so called Papa’s cinema dead and demanded establishment of a new kind of film which would be more experimental and free from the conventions of the industry. The manifesto later lead to the birth of The New German Cinema which is represented by Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and many other directors.

This year marked the festivals 64th edition. In its current form Oberhausen is an experimental and art film mecca offering visually innovative shorts, many of which seek to expand the cinematic language. In the feature documentary Beyond Cinema: The Dumpster Kid Experiment and Other Utopias director Alexander Kluge says that the film pioneers were curious people who kept experimenting with the film medium and «were very surprised to find their wonderful invention, their instrument of enlightenment, being used to record cheap stage plays.» Edgar Reitz also criticises the standard film length, asserting that the 90-minute format was borrowed from stage and is foreign to the nature of film.

«Oberhausen is an experimental and art film mecca.»

Commercial model

However, it is the commercial film industry that sets the rules. When I tell people that I work in film, most of them automatically think of full-length, story-driven fiction films. Everything beyond this format, including documentaries, shorts and experimental films, is somehow considered a second-class cinema to which media and viewers pay less attention. British film theoretician Laura Mulvey in her essay from 1975 «Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema» introduced the term male gaze. Meaning that the audience watches a film from a heterosexual male perspective. I think that one can similarly think of the gaze of the commercial film industry, which has strongly coded its perspective.

Beyond Cinema: The Dumpster Kid Experiment and Other Utopias Director: Robert Fischer

Luckily, there are still some substantial players fighting this narrow understanding of cinema, and International Short Film Festival Oberhausen is one of them. 

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