Welcoming Address from the Festival Directors

Since its beginnings in 1989, FILMFEST DRESDEN has seen itself as a political festival. Originally founded to show films banned in the GDR, it developed into one of the most important international short film festivals in the decades that followed. But as its importance has grown, so too has its responsibility. As a festival, we cannot just please. We have to shake things up, discuss, even offend.

When we decided some time ago to dedicate the festival to the theme of utopia this year, nobody could have guessed how antagonistic this could appear a few months later – after all, we wanted to look to the future with optimism and dream a little after the previous years. But reality seems to have taught us otherwise. A global pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been followed by inflation, an increasing shift to the right and radicalisation, war in the Middle East – with little room for dreams and optimism.

“It’s Going to Be Beautiful!” – this is the subtext of our focus section and perhaps also the mantra of this year’s festival preparations. A supposedly naive statement in view of the current world situation. Or is perhaps holding on to utopias, to a better world, also a form of resistance?

Our programme is not only utopian and beautiful. What is utopia for some may have dystopian traits for others. This is also reflected in our programmes, from artificial intelligence to the search for a home and family. Above all, the question is: How do we want to live together? And how can we achieve this goal?

We are also feeling the effects of Strike Germany – the call for international cultural professionals to strike against German cultural institutions in response to Germany’s policy in the Middle East: including cancelled films, rejected fees and many critical discussions with international cultural professionals. We have decided not to replace withdrawn films, but to indicate this on our website in dialogue with the filmmakers.

Film festivals are being assigned a new role, which we are also welcoming. We see ourselves first and foremost as a platform for the art of film, as a forum for political discourse and intercultural exchanges, and would like to continue this in the upcoming festival. For the 36th festival year, we are screening 370 short films in 183 events to celebrate and honour the art of film together with our audience and all the filmmakers. Naturally, there are numerous works in the programme that directly and indirectly address the issues that concern us. Our diverse programme invites constructive exchanges and reflection.

In various discussion rounds, we are addressing the question of which role we as a festival must play in a controversial discourse that affects society as a whole. Are “safe spaces” just a utopia that can never be achieved, or can we work together to realise them and ensure open “community spaces”?

One thing is clear: we reject all forms of war and displacement. We condemn xenophobia, terror, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. We stand in solidarity with the victims. The killing has to end.

We wish all our guests an encouraging festival year in 2024.

Anne Gaschütz and Sylke Gottlebe

A Message from Minister of State Claudia Roth, Member of the German Bundestag and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

State Minister Claudia Roth, Copyright: J. Konrad Schmidt
Copyright: J. Konrad Schmidt

The German band Fehlfarben has a song with lyrics that translate to “I know what life is: I’ve been to the cinema”. But films do not only show life and society as they are – they also show us what the world could be, what it might be and what it should not be. By focusing on the theme of utopias, this year’s FILMFEST DRESDEN invites viewers to reflect and dream. To dream of a better, more sustainable, more just world; to reflect on the crises of our day, the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East; and to dream of a fair and lasting peace. How can we fight poverty and hunger? How can we overcome autocracy and dictatorship? 

Art does not usually offer clear or simple answers. But short films show us the essence of a moment. They dissect conflicts and prompt questions. They inspire us to think. And we need this inspiration so that we can meet the challenges that we face. There is no other art form, no other kind of film, that distils the present quite how short films do. They can open our eyes to new angles and views. They can spark conversations among us. This is the tradition that FILMFEST DRESDEN belongs to. And that is clear from the more than 3,000 submissions which the festival has received and the more than 20,000 viewers who attend it. 

I thank all participants and the team surrounding Sylke Gottlebe and Anne Gaschütz for your valuable work, which this year once again promises an exciting and inspiring festival of short film.

Minister of State Claudia Roth, Member of the German Bundestag

Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

Welcoming Address from the Saxon State Minister for Culture and Tourism Barbara Klepsch

Saxon State Minister Barbara Klepsch, Copyright: Christian Hueller
Copyright: Christian Hueller

Dear Film Enthusiasts,

For over 30 years now, FILMFEST DRESDEN has developed into one of the leading international short film festivals. Which is something I am delighted about both from a cultural viewpoint, as well as from my perspective as minister for tourism. 

The record number of film submissions this year gives a clear indication of the value accorded to the festival by the makers of short films. The short film genre represents a significant field of experiment, permitting artists to realise their creativity almost limitlessly, both in terms of the content and the form. And FILMFEST DRESDEN provides filmmakers with a vital platform for also being able to show their works to audiences, as the reaction of the audiences is critically important for the artists.

The film festival is also a place for exchanges between filmmakers and those interested in film. It is a place for get-togethers, as indeed for critical scrutiny of current social and political developments as well. This year’s special programmes under the motto of “utopia” even permit the assumption of a little optimism and lightness in the film programme – something we could really do with from time to time in the present era.

Knowing the importance of awards for filmmakers, and that especially in the short film industry, I am particularly pleased that my ministry has now sponsored the Saxon Film Promotion Prize for over 20 years and thus made it easier for many artists to find their way into the industry and realise their next projects.

As the festival patron of the 36 FILMFEST DRESDEN, I would like to encourage you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of short films and discover exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking films. 

May I extend a heartfelt thanks to the film festival’s complete team for the commitment they demonstrate each year in making such an amazing event possible, and that not only in the cultural calendar of Saxony.

Your Barbara Klepsch

Saxon State Minister for Culture and Tourism

Welcoming Address from Mayor Dirk Hilbert

Mayor of Dresden Dirk Hilbert

Off to Utopia

Dear Audiences and Esteemed Cinematic Friends,

What a wonderful feeling – with the festival atmosphere in the air, settling down in your seat, the lights go out, the curtains open, and the silver screen becomes a stage. Now you can finally enjoy this feeling to the full once more. For it is no utopia, but FILMFEST DRESDEN starting its 36th edition. 

This year, the short film programmes are being framed thematically by “dreaming utopia”, with the filmmakers considering in their works the question of how people want to live in the future. One of the special programmes is, for instance, exploring architectural utopias and constructional visions that have been achieved. While another programme is focusing thematically on how to design and shape a better and fairer future. 

The fact that the festival organisation has let itself become swept away with utopias and ultimately puts them into practice represents a marvellous gain for Dresden. For the team has always found new ways to reach out to its audiences, such as developing venues for open air screenings and progressively expanding its programme into more city districts. And this year, two further festival venues – the Geh8 and the Ostrale.Basis in Pieschen – have been added. Through which, short films can now be seen at a total of 16 festival venues – and not only in the cinemas. 

I would like to thank the festival organisers and all its supporters for constantly reconsidering and reimagining the festival. As indeed also for viewing the incredible number of 3,200 submissions from 104 countries and selecting such enticing programmes from them. My respect. 

And what does your utopia look like, dear viewers? Take a seat and let yourselves be inspired to reflect upon it. Perhaps you do not even have to go that far away to do so. For as the Dresden-based painter Ludwig Thieck already realised: “The most wonderful utopia is often lying right at our feet, but we look above and beyond it with our telescopes.” In this sense: let the films roll!

Dirk Hilbert

Mayor of the City of Dresden