Munich has been a film-industry center for about a century. Camera company Arri launched there in 1917, and Bavaria Film Studios was established in 1919, although its founder, Peter Ostermayr, had been making movies in the city for several years before. Alfred Hitchcock shot his first released feature there in 1925, and was followed by such leading filmmakers as Billy Wilder, John Huston and Stanley Kubrick.
It is within that tradition that Diana Iljine, CEO and director of the Munich Film Festival, presents her event, which opens with David Oelhoffen’s Algeria-set Western “Far From Men,” starring Viggo Mortensen; the closing-night feature will be Matteo Garrone’s “Tale of Tales,” pictured above, starring Salma Hayek, fresh from its Cannes debut.
“Munich has always been a movie town,” Iljine says. The city remains one of the world’s great movie-business hubs, and that’s one reason why the festival attracts 2,000 or so film industry professionals, and more than 500 members of the media.
“Munich is a major European festival for the industry, but also for the public,” says Iljine, noting that more than 75,000 festival tickets are sold each year. “It’s a dynamic mix. It’s for industry insiders, but it is also audience friendly.”
It’s this combination of industry heft and summertime easy living that helps attract most of the heavy-hitters from the German film business to the event, and their presence provides another reason for international professionals to be there, too.
One-third of the German film industry is based in Munich, another third in Berlin, and the rest are scattered across the country, so it makes sense to have a place where they can get together.
“With its many powerhouse distribution companies, Munich is the logical place to meet for industry insiders from Germany, as well as distributors from Switzerland and Austria,” Iljine says. “We are constantly striving to create even more networking possibilities, and to make more transparent what has been the case for years: that most decision-makers are here during the festival — to meet and talk shop — and that the festival has more and more appeal both in Europe and further afield.”
Indeed, the festival offers two lucrative awards in its Cinemasters section, where international films compete for the €50,000 ($56,000) Arri/Osram Award; and the CineVision Award, with its purse of $13,500.
A leitmotif in the International Independents section is crossing borders, Iljine says. “Whether they’re geographical, political, personal or stylistic, old boundaries are being ignored and new terrain discovered,” she says.
One film to explore this theme is “Mediterranea,” which focuses on African migrants who risk drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, driven by the hope of a better life in Europe.
Iljine is keen to build on this international dimension and encourage further global linkups. “We have noticed a steady and considerable rise in interest from international film professionals, who come to Munich to connect with the German industry and creative talent here,” she says.