Photo: Sybille Bauer
Welcome to an exciting world of innovative film-making from Austria. This platform presents a broad selection of singular works produced in the past year with the financial support of the Federal Ministry of the Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport as well as detailed information about completed films, works in progress, award winners, scholarships, festivals and the Ministry’s funding schemes for productions supported since 2020. May this multifaceted online sourcebook serve as an ambassador for innovative film-making across national borders in both analogue and digital forms. Enjoy!
We are living in extraordinary and challenging times.
While we are still in the middle of recovering from the disruption caused by the global pandemic, other pressures have accelerated as well. Addressing climate change and the need to truly adapt and readjust our ways of living, producing and consuming are more urgent than ever.
Equality – and this is sometimes overlooked or intentionally ignored – the world is in the middle of its fourth industrial revolution. The speed of the change that is taking place is unprecedented, as is its scale and effects, which are literally touching on every aspect of our cultural, social and economic life.
Based on the modern technologies available to us, we are connected to the rest of the world more than ever. At the same time, we witness that the interconnected world is not going in sync; developments are not taking place at the same speed and with the same effect everywhere. From this perspective in this interconnnected and globalized world, the pandemic will only be over when it has been overcome worldwide – which puts us under a special responsibility to look and assist beyond our borders.
Art and culture are essential ingredients of our society and they have important roles to play in finding new solutions and suitable responses to such broad and multifaceted complexities. Innovative Film Austria shows a broad and impressive range of original, thoughtful and provoking reflections and positions on the state of the inner and outer world as seen from an artist’s perspective. The images open up an alternative space for reflection, introspection and insight. The high level of recognition that innovative Austrian films have been receiving in the past years abroad and at major festivals equally underlines the fact that the language spoken by these artists is indeed a global one.
the pandemic has also caused considerable disruptions to filmmaking in Austria. I am therefore very satisfied that it was possible to draw up rapid measures and additional tailored funding schemes in support of Austrian film producers to counterbalance the cultural and economic backlash caused by this pandemic. This has also immensely benefitted innovative filmmaking.
I am also very conscious that we need to do more to address climate change in our daily lives and work. I am therefore very proud that we have been able to come up with harmonized funding guidelines for Green Filming in Austria, developed through a participatory process and designed to make film production ecologically sustainable and as climate-neutral as possible.
I wish all of you pleasant reading and I am convinced that you will find the insights and perspectives offered in this catalog enriching. Equally, I wish all the featured filmmakers continued success and the widest possible audience for their fantastic works.
With best wishes
Secretary of State for Arts and Culture
Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport
English translation by Eve Heller
Photo: Josephine Ahnelt
From the perspective of an artist, the entire history of art is, to a significant extent, a history of the organized support of the arts. From the perspective of the consumer of art, the entire history of art is, to a significant extent, a history of wonder. This wonder is of a kind only art can provide – it cannot be found, for example, in religion, food or sex. Innovative Film Austria stands at the threshold of an ancient cultural tradition: It generously caters both to the adventurous artist hungering to experiment with audiovisual media, as well as the adventurous viewer, hungry for wonder of a kind s/he hasn’t experienced before.
After he had relocated from Rome to Milan in 384, Saint Augustine encountered Bishop Ambrose, a wise man responsible for Augustine’s eventual embrace of Christianity. In Confessions, Augustine remembers observing a peculiarly wondrous trait displayed by his beloved and respected mentor:
“I could not ask him questions I wished to ask, in the manner I wished to ask them, because so many people kept him busy with their problems that I was prevented from talking to him face to face. When he was not with them, which was never a very long time, he was reviving his body with the food it required or refreshing his mind with reading. When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart explored the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. All could approach him freely and it was not unusual for visitors to be announced. So often, when we came to see him, we found him reading like this in silence – as he never read aloud. We would sit there quietly, for no one had the heart to disturb him when he was so engrossed in study. After a time we went away again, guessing that in the short while he was free from the turmoil of other men’s affairs and able to refresh his own mind, he would not wish to be distracted.”
Augustine met Ambrose well over 1,000 years before the European invention of printing technology, in 1450 AC. Despite the fact that children today continue to learn to read by reading aloud, it is still easy to forget – or, better yet, hard to imagine – that an act as simple as reading in silence wasn’t always as “natural” as we perceive it to be today. Back when books were a rare commodity and the ability to read a rare privilege, most people equated the technology of reading with vocalizing. Ambrose reading with a “silent voice” and “still tongue” was a source of profound wonder – even for an intellectual like Augustine who was already a teacher himself back when he first met Ambrose.
Roughly 1,500 years after Augustine’s encounter, Chris Marker stirringly portrayed Soviet master filmmaker Aleksandr Medvedkin in The Last Bolshevik and reported how the young Medvedkin joyously cried upon first discovering how placing two images together could produce a third meaning.
Medvedkin shed his tears of wonder at approximately the same moment in history when people all over the world started escaping into the darkness of movie palaces en masse – millions cried in front of the silver screen and continue to do so to this day. Perhaps the technology of exhibiting moving images on big public screens never really drove any Parisians to leave the theater in fear of being run over by the train arriving at La Ciotat station (by now cinema’s “founding myth” has been entirely debunked). But the cinema did serve and still serves as a constant source of wonder – a source of tears and laughter. Hours spent in the darkness of a movie theater are hours of wonder, while occasionally punctured by an interval of tedium.
Thanks to Jean-Luc Godard’s iconic close-up of Anna Karina, and Abbas Kiarostami’s close-up of Juliette Binoche, it is easy to picture the face of
a viewer glistening with tears in the darkened movie theater, illuminated only by the soft light reflecting off the silver screen. Now imagine the same face perusing moving images outside the sanctuary of cinema – in front of YouTube. Instead of a shadowy and sublime image of stillness and wonder, it is easy to picture the harshly lit face of someone picking their nose, masturbating, or nervously skipping through hundreds of streams: hours of tedium, occasionally punctured by an interval of wonder.
“Anyone who has wasted hours surfing the Internet knows that technology can encourage bad habits,” Ted Chiang laconically remarked in his 2013 story The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling. But on the same page, he conceded that the true benefits of (any) new technologies have yet to be discovered. We can be certain of one thing: Having experienced two different technological standards only seems to provide an ideal perspective for evaluation and comparison. It doesn’t. I am not an authority on the subject compared to someone born into the age of new technological standards simply because I experienced the widespread migration from analog to digital cinema and the subsequent widespread migration from cinema viewing to home streaming.
The true benefits of new technologies will only be discovered by generations that are unbiased and less judgmental, namely people who are perhaps already completely – and inevitably – transformed by these same new technologies.
We are standing at the edge of a precipice shifting before our very eyes, accelerated both by predictable factors such as commercial interests, as well as seemingly unpredictable events, such as viral pandemics. There is only one thing that remains certain: Whatever transformation or wonder lies beyond our horizon, it only can and hopefully will be facilitated by the persistence of progressive forces, such as Innovative Film.
Jurij Meden (b. 1977) is a Slovenian film scholar, writer, programmer and award-winning experimental filmmaker currently working as curator and head of the film program at the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna, while also serving as co-director of the Nitrate Picture Show and editor-in-chief of KINO! (www.e-kino.si). Meden previously worked as a curator at the George Eastman House and the Slovenian Cinematheque, and as adjunct professor of experimental film and video art at University of Nova Gorica School of Arts Department. In addition to his curatorial and filmmaking activities, Meden has written and co-written more than 250 publications on cinema.
Revised in English by Eve Heller
Published by Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport, Division Arts and Culture, Vienna, Austria