Diverse and hopeful: the 50th Sehsüchte program

To curate a festival program, it is not enough to divide the submitted films into good and bad. Rather, it requires a festival-specific philosophy of selecting and relating.

When the Call for Entries came to an end at the beginning of the year, there were more than 1000 submitted films to sift through, select and program. Unlike all the years before, this process took place in the midst of a pandemic and had to be moved to the home theaters of the team members responsible for programming. The cinemas of the Film University Babelsberg were closed and could not be used by our “Programmies” as a common space of film experience and exchange. This was a bitter blow. It was therefore all the more important to agree on a curatorial foundation in order to be able to work as a joint selection committee despite social distancing.

Sehsüchte Filmprogramm
Film still from the documentary „Negra“ (Director.: Medhin Tewolde Serrano), that runs in the Sehsüchte programme this year.

Basically, it is not enough to simply divide films into good and bad in order to select a festival program. After all, you don’t just want to watch good films, you also want to watch films that are as diverse and varied as possible. Sehsüchte, as the largest European student film festival, aims to cover the breadth of international up-and-coming film – in all its overlaps and contradictions. In addition, the 50th anniversary is coming up in 2021, which gives Sehsüchte a symbolic stability as an institution. At the same time, however, a global virus is raging that has called into question every believed form of permanence, especially with regard to culture. All of this should be part of our festival philosophy and thus also of our program philosophy. So what were the concrete motives behind the film selection?

Our mission statement

The program of the 50th Sehsüchte has the task of looking at both what has been and what may yet come. True to our motto IGNITE, we want to recognize the extinguished fires, but also ignite new flames. The coming generation of filmmakers, like every generation before it, builds on the existing cinematic tradition and at the same time makes proposals for its future. They make demands, construct utopias, issue alarming warnings, and put their fingers in the wound, both formally and thematically. Our program should reflect all these facets and do justice to the breadth of international filmmaking.

No matter what genre, no matter what subject matter, no matter what taste, we do not shy away from social, political and aesthetic controversies. We don’t act as agents for Western-influenced, culture-industrial sensibilities that sort films primarily by the lowest common denominator and supposedly decisive measures of cinematic craft, such as the quality of the camera, the editing or the acting. We select films which stoke flames, escape conventions, or build dream castles.

Our program is diverse – in front of and behind the camera. We want to see people who are otherwise not seen. We want to hear voices that are otherwise not heard. We want to show films that give us hope. The films in our program expose hate instead of reproducing it. They are sincere, even though the world around them is cynical. They mystify, even though everything seems enlightened. We need these films and, moreover, we need cinema – now more than ever.

Sehsüchte Filmprogramm
Finally, CINEMA again! We are very happy to show the film programme in the local cinemas. Those who can’t make it to the cinemas have the option of streaming the film programme online. Foto: Johanna Peters © Sehsüchte 2020

See you at Sehsüchte!

That was our compass in the film selection and programming of the 50th Sehsüchte. Whether we were able to live up to our own expectations is ultimately up to each festival visitor to find out for themselves. In any case, despite all the Corona restrictions, we are glad to have been able to put together a hopeful and diverse program with the help of a common philosophy. 107 films from 35 countries are waiting to meet their audience starting July 21 – both online and in our festival cinemas. We look forward to seeing you.