Bericht von Juan David Gonzalez Monroy (AWE SHOCKS und EIGENHEIM)
This year FLEX Fest took place from the 15th to the 17th of February in Gainesville Florida. Over the past 9 years it has grown to become one of the better known experimental film festival in the US. The festival is organized by Roger Beebe, a respected filmmaker and professor at the University of Florida, along with volunteering students from his film classes.
Three film programs were scheduled every day and more than 60 films were shown. The festival is special since it is one of few festivals that still support work done on film. Along with video, films were screened on super8, 16mm and 35mm. Since all of our films are shot on film, we were able to show them in their original formats. We showed two films at the festival: AWE SHOCKS on 16mm and EIGENHEIM on 35mm.
This year’s festival was very well attended, both by a regular audience and by guest filmmakers. More than 18 filmmakers from all over the United States came to present their films at the festival. I was the only filmmaker traveling from Europe, even though there were many films in the program hailing from Europe, Asia and South America. Because so many of the filmmakers were in attendance, it made for fascinating conversations about the films both during the screenings’ Q & A’s, and after the screenings at some of the local bars and restaurants where the after parties were held. Since the festival does not take place in a large city with many distractions, the filmmakers participated in most of the activities. There was a potluck at Roger Beebe’s house where everybody got to know each other and a brunch on Sunday morning to wrap up the festival. Personally, it was a very enriching experience since I was able to familiarize myself with the work of many contemporary North American experimental filmmakers. Sadly this work is not screened very often in Germany so it was good to be able to see the work and talk to the filmmakers about it.
It was also very interesting for me to share the work that I’ve been making with my partner Anja Dornieden over the past few years with an American audience. Up until now, we have shown our work mostly in Europe and Canada and when we’ve shown our work in the US we have not been able to attend. So it was very helpful to obtain the travel grant from German Films and be present at the festival to answer questions about our films. One of the advantages of the festival is that it is held in the university town of Gainesville, which means that it draws a very loyal audience of University of Florida students. Many audience members were film students interested pursuing their own careers in filmmaking. They usually had very insightful questions about the themes and processes behind the films.
There was also a lot of curiosity about the German and European experimental film and video scene. From my experience at FLEX Fest I was able to surmise that works made in Europe are not shown that often in the US and the films that do get shown, because of the distances are not usually accompanied by their filmmakers. The same could be said for my knowledge of the contemporary American scene. Work is shown mostly in a handful of experimental film festivals, like Rotterdam and Oberhausen, but most American filmmakers don’t submit or aren’t invited to many of the other smaller or lesser-known festivals in Europe, not to mention art spaces or independent venues. All this leads me to believe that there is still a lot of room for exchange between artists in Europe and in the US. In general there was a very positive reaction from the audience and the other filmmakers to our films and at the end of the festival Awe Shocks was awarded the prize for best film in the short film category. The prize was a $600 Kodak product grant.
I believe that going to the festival was a very good opportunity for establishing relationships between us and many American filmmakers and institutions. In fact, next month Anja and I will curate a screening in Berlin that will include one of the films that showed at FLEX Fest. Hopefully after this trip, and owing to the people I met there, we will also be able to show our films more frequently in North America.