Austria has built one of the most solid, avant-garde film industries in Europe over the last years, producing directors with a very distinctive view whose work ranges from narrative cinema to non-fiction (and all its hybrids), and includes the most radical experimental pieces. It was, therefore, a pending matter for the Seville European Film Festival, which is always looking out for new tendencies and for “that other cinema” that is capitalizing contemporary audiovisual creation, to take a look at the Austrian film industry.
From indisputable masters, such as Michael Haneke, to filmmakers who have revolutionized the traditional ways of looking and narrating in the cinema, such as Ulrich Seidl, Austrian cinema will be present in a transverse way in all the sections, both competitive and out of competition, at the XI Seville European Film Festival, with the screening of almost thirty titles, between features and short films. In addition, SEFF has prepared the section Focus Europa: Austria, with the best of that country’s filmography, with titles such as In the basement, by Ulrich Seidl, or Goodnight, Mommy, which has had a great welcome at the Sitges Festival.
There is also a programme of experimental cinema and a season dedicated to Martin Arnold, one of the exponents of work with 'found footage', who will also have a parallel exhibition in the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo.
For its Official Section, SEFF has selected Amour fou (Austria/Germany/Luxemburg, 2014), by Jessica Hausner, a friend of the Seville Festival, the winner in 2009 of the Gold Giradillo for Best Film with Lourdes. Inspired by the suicide of Heinrich von Kleist along with Henriette Vogel, the film looks with ironic distance at romantic ideals in a twist on the concept of romantic comedy.
Competing in the New Waves-Non Fiction section is the film We come as friends (France/Austria, 2014). Its director, Hubert Sauper (Darwin’s Nightmare) looks at the recently independent South Sudan, victim of war and plundering, to compose an intricate mosaic of obscure interests. New kinds of colonialism which the Sudanese are surviving and resisting as best they can.
The EFA (European Film Academy) Selection will show Macondo (Austria, 2014), the story of an 11 year old Chechen boy who, after the death of his father, becomes the head of the family. The return of an old friend of his father causes an upheaval in his life when it wakes the ghost of the absent father. The first film by the Bavarian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai is a story about growing up that won an award in Sarajevo and competed for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Festival.
SEFF will be showing Haneke’s film The Piano Teacher (Austria, France, 2001), the story of a piano teacher with a domineering mother who, under her serious, disciplined appearance, hides unexpected sexual behaviour. After a private concert, one of her pupils sets out to conquer her. The leading actress, Isabelle Huppert, received the César, the European Film Award and the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Festival, which also awarded the film the Grand Jury Prize.
Focus Europa: Austria
SEFF14 will devote one of its most important sections, Focus Europa, exclusively to Austrian cinema, based on new languages and with important references in various fields. The programming includes Whore’s Glory (Michael Glawogger, 2011), a documentary -which won awards at Venice-, that looks at the inner workings of female prostitution in three different parts of the planet: Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico; Michael (Markus Schleintzer, 2011), the chilling tale about the life of an anodyne insurance salesman who keeps a 10 year old boy prisoner in the basement of his house; What is love (Ruth Mader, 2012), which explores everyday love through five mini-pieces centred on three couples, a single woman and a priest; FILM IST. a girl & a gun (Gustav Deutsch, 2009), one of the most famous works by the director of Shirley; visions of reality (which was shown at SEFF13), it revises numerous films from various genres, through 'found footage', to tell once more the story between a girl and a gun. This technique is also used in A masque of madness (Notes on Film 06-B, Monologue 02) (Norbert Pfaffenbichler, 2013), which creates a particular filmic Frankenstein with snippets of the characters played by the greatest actor in horror cinema: Boris Karloff.
Ulrich Seidl, who was already in Seville in 2012 and 2013 with Paradise: Love and Paradise: Faith, respectively, goes back to non-fiction from the subsoil of his country, with In the basement (2014), an exploration of basements in Austrian homes, a place where their owners give free rein to their hobbies, and the setting for the most varied obsessions, in a look that mixes fiction and non-fiction to portray a whole society. Seidl is also present, but as producer, with Goodnight, Mommy (2014), a hair-raising film by Veronica Franz and Severin Fiala which arrives in Seville after its great reception in Sitges. Lastly, La pivellina (2009) explored the building of bonds of love and solidarity between people through the story of a woman who finds an abandoned child and takes her back to her caravan. The film is directed by Rainer Frimmel and Tizza Covi, who was at SEFF12 with her film The shine of day.
Focus on Martin Arnold and season of experimental cinema
SEFF14 has also programmed a season dedicated to Martin Arnold (Vienna, 1959), a filmmaker who extracts from narrative cinema of the first half of the XX century its most nightmarish, perverse side, based on temporal and editing manipulation. His films, which have forged a path, reveal an alarming universe. The Festival has programmed the screening of a selection of his short films, in a special session at which the director will explain each one of his pieces and will talk to the audience. Pièce touchée (1989), Passage à l’acte (1993), Alone. Life wastes and hardy (1998), Deanimated (installation, 2002), Shadow cuts (2010), Soft palate (2010), Self control (2011) and Haunted house (2011) are the titles included in this season, which will be complemented by an exhibition dedicated to Arnold in the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC), between 6th and 30th November.
Lastly, SEFF14 will devote an extra section to experimental cinema from Austria, one of the countries in which the avant garde has flourished most and, at present, a world power in this field. One of the main causes of this avant gardism is the existence of the Austrian Film Museum, and its founder, Peter Kubelka, a legend in experimental cinema who has carried out an essential job of diffusion and education. The Kubelka school has produced several generations of famous disciples, led by Peter Tscherkassky, who has developed a work marked by the direct manipulation of the photochemical medium, in spectacular formal, plastic experiments. The properties of celluloid and its creative possibilities have also been explored in works by Eve Heller, Christian Neubacher, Elke Groen and Siegfried A. Fruhauf. On the side of video art and experimentation using digital formats, the season will have works by figures such as Michaella Grill and Johan Lurff, regulars at the most important international festivals.
The season, named Austrian Trip – Austrian experimental cinema, includes titles by some of the most avant-gardist masters in the world, such as Endeavour (Johann Lurf, 2010), Cityscapes (Michaela Grill, Martin Siewert, 2007), Creme 21 (Eve Heller, 2013), Exterior extended (Siegfried A. Fruhauf, 2013), Coming attractions (Peter Tscherkassky, 2010) and Optical sound (C. Neubacher, E. Groen, 2014).