It’s been said that in Cannes people buy and sell films, but in Munich they discover them.
Described as a ‘great big party’ and a festival that breaks down the barriers between filmmaker and audience, Filmfest München (or to give its more widely-recognised title, the Munich International Film festival, or IMF) is the biggest summer film festival in Germany and runs the famed Berlinale close as the most important fest in the country. Established in 1983 it has grown to become a massive annual event in the city, with its most recent edition showcasing 250 features, documentaries and TV movies to over 70,000 attendees, 2500 industry insiders and 600 accredited members of the press – since its inaugural edition, more than 1.3 million people have attended screenings at München.
From its inception, Filmfest München has been about a celebration of cinema – a simple mission statement which they have adhered to with incredible success. It picks the cream of the crop – from established filmmakers, up-and-coming talent, zero-budget indie films and innovative docs – and gives them as wide a platform as possible, with all of the screened films receiving their German premieres, and in many instances their European or world premieres.
München also takes great pride in discovering new voices in cinema, and previous festivals have seen then-emerging filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and the Coen Brothers screen work. The fest has such prestige within the industry that superstar names have regularly trod the red carpet over the years – Audrey Hepburn, Susan Sarandon, Roman Polanski and Norman Jewison are just some of the guests to have attended previous star-studded editions.
With a raft of sections and sidebars in its program including ‘Cinemasters’ and ‘New German Cinema’, the festival is jam-packed with cinephile goodness, with much-loved retrospectives – covering such greats as Sergio Leone, Julie Christie and Milos Forman – homages and tributes running alongside the main screenings and making it a richly rewarding event. And while it is not a competitive festival, München has an array of awards and prizes which are handed out, including the CineMerit Award which honours outstanding personalities for their contribution to motion pictures as an art form, and the German Cinema New Talent Prize; over €150,000 is awarded annually to winners, with the monies donated by the non-profit fest’s sponsors and partners.
Now heading into its 33rd year, Filmfest München takes place between June 26th and July 4th 2015. Its heartbeat is at the city’s Gasteig cultural centre, where galas, screenings, Q&As and panel discussions take place over the nine days, while several other downtown venues also show many features and docs from the program. And to add to the inclusive party atmosphere, the ‘Munich Movie Mile’ is a stretch of huge projector screens lined along the banks of the River Isar for the duration of the festival, where over 200 movies are displayed for everyone to watch for free.