Aside from red carpets in a flurry of bright lights, film festivals are mostly geeky events. Behind the scenes of baroque cinemas, eminent jurors make ambiguous decisions on complex novels or documentaries, mainly responsible, sometimes far from the cameras. Baden-Baden is a little different. Not only because the thermal springs in the ancient residential city have been providing social relaxation since Roman times; It has held up well in the cold and perpetual 2022.
So he sits there completely relaxed – the great, ah: the greatest German TV show entertainer of our time – and talks about what he would probably be discussing in a quiet little room: the first entry in a TeleVisionale contest. That’s the name of the local TV film festival since it was first acquired by geek Urs Spoerri and managing director Daniela Genten.
Among more than 200 original nominees, Spörri, along with several selection committees, pre-screened not only ten feature films by established directors and five more for the MFG Young Talent Award, but for the first time five series. However, due to their late inclusion in the Baden-Baden programme, they will only be subject to the eyes of a strict jury on Thursday. Now it’s the turn of the individual pieces. And no one other than its president, Dominique Graf, is allowed to examine it in public.
Dominic Graf: Detective. Dominic Graf: Cat. Dominic Graf: The series is genius (“Mrs. Bo Laughs”). Dominique Graf: Serial Genius (“In the Face of Crime”). So far, Dominic Graf: Referee. And what does this 70-year-old revolutionary say in the rotunda of the gorgeous Kurhaus about Isabel Kleifeld’s marriage film “Sugarlove” at the start of this TV week: “Thriller.” Sigh of relief at the main cast plus direction and script in Row 1. “But I would have called it something else.” His suggestion to the 100 special spectators in the chairs behind him: “Then.”
Thus begins the creation, the general discussion of the five-member jury minus Sandra Holler (who had to cancel for family reasons) plus a film school representative (even a few years below average age). 45 minutes of technical discussion about the ARD movie with a man (Fritz Karl), who wants to make up for his lost wife (Barbara Auer) with an escort girl (Cosima Hinmann) until her ménage-à-trois explode. To the jury’s delight? “Good entertainment,” says the chairman. “Sexual neglect thrives,” agrees film theory professor Lisa Goto, left.
© Sophie Schuller
Public jury session with Dominik Graf at TeleVisionale in Baden-Baden.
“Was there really intimate coordination?” Podcaster Eugene Yeh on the left wants to know from director Clifffield, before exposing the energetic film student “Carl’s pursuit of harmony” as “averse to conflict, i.e. violence.” “His negativity is driving me crazy.” It’s back and forth back and forth. A competent opinion of a jury as diverse as possible (two people of color, three women, even two old white men) without interrupting or being similarly disrespectful.
Without the people responsible for the film in the room, it can of course be assumed that there will be more powerful internal arguments leading up to the awards ceremony on Friday night. But even though they’re also in the expert discussion on Act Two, this look at the festival’s machine room is pretty exciting. Whether judges will judge differently can’t be judged when potential judges are seated five arms apart, even with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, but when director Mate Jeshonek praises the “ambiguity of your viewpoints” at the Wannsee Conference, it delights. Screenwriter Marcus Vatrot demonstrates that not only are tastes different, you can argue about it in a civilized way without getting personal.
Where that harmony is, of course, is at best an episodic rendition of what are supposedly the best TV movies of the year. Because apart from issues of quality in terms of content under economic quantity constraints, Baden-Baden is of course not just about the informal gathering of art and criticism, supply and demand, audiences and filmmakers. In the neoclassical Kurhaus, they find each other physically for five days in a very small space. “The location alone makes us a family festival,” says manager Urs Spoerri amid the spa’s tangle of baroque corridors and, as always, seemingly rushed but deeply relaxed.
From the premiere before ten (“Honecker and the Pastor”) to the Black Box Baden-Baden with director Jan Josef Liefers in the afternoon to the debate by juror MFG Sönke Wortmann in Sophie Linnemann’s TV mini-play “The Ordinaries”) at nine Spörri is almost always present and meets around “500 professionals” almost everywhere, contacting invited guests in the group of junior visitors for free. Sometimes until the morning. At eleven, TeleVisionale invites you to a night chat in the fireplace room of the Park Hotel next door. And here you can not only casually chat, but also smoke without hindrance.
Finally, one would like to say. Finally, a piece of the traditional atmosphere of an old-fashioned festival, which in 1964 had films lined up in shifting places by chain-smoking men. In a couple of days, even series, including from streaming services such as RTL+ and Sky, will be added, i.e. digital icons, loosely scattered on the public service offering. “If you asked ten film students whether they preferred working in cinema or Netflix, nine out of ten would talk about Netflix,” says young David Preute of his MFG “Rogue Trader” contributor to the following beta. “Oh really?” “It’s disappointing,” asks Juror Wortman, two seats away. But the truth also reached Baden-Baden. Thank God.