Interview with Lars Gass: International Short Film Festival Oberhausen

The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen was founded in 1954 and is known as one of the oldest short film festivals in the world. A major platform for creativity in video and film, Oberhausen has screened work by international filmmakers and artists including Doug Aitken, Michel Gondry and Pipilotti Rist. Divided into various awards, the International Competition, German Competition and International Children’s and Youth Film Competition, the event promotes dynamic and experimental filmmaking. We hear from Oberhausen Director Lars Henrik Gass about how the short film festival has grown over the last 60 years.

ASFF: How has the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen changed since its inception?
LG: The festival has always been a catalyst and a showcase for contemporary developments, a forum for what are often heated discussions, a discoverer of new trends and talent, as well as one of the most important short film institutions anywhere in the world. For example, 6,000 films are submitted on average per year, around 500 films are screened and over 1,100 accredited industry professionals attend the event itself. In the course of more than five decades, the festival has become one of the world’s most respected film events – a place where filmmakers and artists ranging from Roman Polanski to Cate Shortland, from George Lucas to Pipilotti Rist have presented their first films. Oberhausen has managed to instigate various political and aesthetical developments, for instance through the Oberhausen Manifesto, perhaps the most important group document in the history of German film. In the past 15 years, the festival has been engaged with developments in pop culture and the art world.

ASFF: In your opinion, why is short film an important creative industry?
LG: I don’t consider short film as an industry whatsoever. But short film helps to develop film language. There are fewer limitations. Short film is still the prime source of innovation for the art of film – the experimental field in which future cinematic vocabularies first crystallise.

ASFF: You attended ASFF in 2014. What were your festival highlights?
LG: I really enjoyed the artists’ film screenings at the New School House Gallery. This videotheque-style exhibition offered a wide range of experimental and creative film to be viewed on individual monitors. I also greatly appreciated the space in which it was located.

ASFF: This year’s Oberhausen opens in April. Can you talk about the programme for 2015?
LG: Oberhausen presents The Third Image – 3D Cinema as Experiment. 3D today is automatically associated with big budget action movies and animations. But in the slipstream of mainstream cinema a growing number of independent and experimental productions are also exploring stereoscopic 3D. In the largest programme of its kind in recent years, comprising around 50 works, most of them from 2008 to today, the festival will investigate the potential harboured by this cineastic awakening. Besides this, we are going to present programmes of work by Ito Takashi, Erkka Nissinen, William Raban, Jennifer Reeder and Vipin Vijay.

ASFF: As Festival Director, what do you look for in short film submissions?
LG: Artistic developments. I really can’t understand why people try to conform to mainstream patterns instead of taking advantage of artistic freedom.

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