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Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg: Everybody is a foreigner, almost everywhere.

Tuesday 27 October 2015, by SIGNIS

Brussels, October 27th, 2015 (SIGNIS/ Magda Hermans). These last years Mannheim’s catalogue has managed to capture the festival’s main theme in catchy phrases such as: Leben! Aber wie? or Filme feiern.

This year no such phrase on the cover, but Dr. Michael Kötz offered us one in his opening speech: Changes in a changed landscape, referring to 7 important innovations in this 64th edition of the festival among which I consider the introduction of a new additional competition for serials dramas – the Norwegian Occupied left its other competitors far behind by winning the New Creators Award - to be the most important one. Kötz himself, however, put forward the idea that ‘Everybody is a foreigner, almost everywhere’ as this year’s most relevant topic.

Among those foreigners, Mexico was one of the most surprising, refreshing and celebrated participants with Distancias Cortas, La Delgada Linea Amarilla (Grand Newcomer Award!) and El Jeremías.

No wonder the Ecumenical Jury rewarded Distancias Cortas, directed by the Mexican newcomer Alejandro Guzmán Alvarez. The protagonist of his film, Federico Sanchez,suffers from extreme obesity (200 kilos!). Because of his illness every day human activities are a burden. Hence the title, Short Distances, referring to his incapacity to walk normal distances. His social contacts are limited to his bossy sister and her henpecked husband Ramón. His only ‘activity’ is taking pictures. His horizon broadens when he is forced to step outside to have them developed in the photo shop nearby where he meets the young fatherless assistant Paolo. Three lonely people (Fedo, Ramón and Paolo) find each other in a friendship that will change their lives. The Ecumenical jury was not only charmed by the unusual approach of a topical theme as overweight: humorous, not heavy handed, and most of all caring and respectful. We were also impressed by the artistic qualities of the film: a memorable opening scene, the slow pace and the beautiful, restraint colour palette, both running parallel with Fedo’s daily rhythm. A promising film debut!

Though Belgium and The Netherlands can hardly be considered as foreigners in Germany, the impact of their films and jury members was also quite impressive: Marion Hänsel and Jef Nuyts were members of the International Jury and films such as 12 Months in 1 Day (Special Newcomer Award!), Gluckauf, Paradise Trips and La Tierra Roja proved to be serious contenders. This year’s edition of the Mannheim Film Festival once again offered us the opportunity to get acquainted with talented new filmmakers from all over the world.

The Ecumenical Jury members were: Thomas Bohne (President, Germany), Magda Hermans (Belgium), Jürgen Jaissle (Germany), Ylva Liljeholm (Sweden), Sonja Töpfer (Germany)

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