For almost 30 years, the Oldenburg Film Festival has been championing a very specific flavor of fiercely independent cinema.
Equally inspired by the New Hollywood genre films of the 1970s and the bootstraps indie cinema of the 1990s, Oldenburg has carved out a niche unlike any of the major international festivals. Instead of playing the same fall festival hits as Cannes, Venice and Toronto, Oldenburg continues to spotlight overlooked or forgotten movies that don’t fit the industry’s familiar categories.
For the 29th festival, which runs Sept. 14-18, The Hollywood Reporter took a look back at five indie gems from Oldenburg’s weird and wonderful history.
A Coffee in Berlin (2012, Winner, Audience Award, German Independence Award, Best Actor Award)
Jan-Ole Gerster’s A Coffee In Berlin, a droll, Jim Jarmusch-inspired day-in-the-life-of-a-German-slacker drama, premiered at the Munich Film Festival. But it was the Oldenburg audience that embraced it. Boosted by its sweep of Oldenburg’s 2012 awards — the film won audience and jury honors, as well as the best actor prize for Tom Schilling in a star-making roll — A Coffee in Berlin went on to sweep the German Film Awards the following year.
Puppy Love (2020, Winner of German Independence Award, Best Actress Award)
Much like the romantic duo at the center of this film, Puppy Love and Oldenburg were made for each other. This seedy romance tale, the feature debut of Canadian music video director Michael Maxxis, opened the 2020 Oldenburg Festival, with director and cast, including stars Hopper Penn and Paz de la Huerta, attending to take part despite COVID-19 restrictions. It paid off: Puppy Love walked away with the German Independence Award for best film and the best actress prize for de la Huerta.
Familiye (2017, Winner, German Independence Award)
It’s hard to imagine a purer example of independent film making than Familye. Kubilay Sarikaya and Sedat Kirtan had no connections to the industry when they co-wrote, co-directed and co-stared in this crime drama about three Turkish-German brothers: the recently-released ex-convict Danyal (Sarikaya), the dangerously-in-debt gambler Miko (Arnel Taci) and Muhammed (Muhammed Kirtan), the youngest, born with Down Syndrome who is one step away from being institutionalized. But when German star Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run) discovered and championed the project, it made it all the way to Oldenburg, where it won the 2017 German Independence Award for best film.
Hardcore (2004, Winner, German Independence Award)
One of Oldenburg’s first success stories, Dennis Iliadis’ feature debut Hardcore won over the Oldenburg audience in its 2007 international premiere in Oldenburg. Winning Oldenburg’s German Independence Award for best film, kicked off a successful festival tour for Hardcore and became Illiadis’ Hollywood calling card. He went on to direct The Last House on the Left and Delirium.
For The Unknown Dog (2008, Otto Sprenger Award for best young German filmmaker)
German twin brother directors Ben and Dominik Reding made waves with their 2000 debut Oi! Warning, the story of a skinhead who falls in love with a gay leftist punk. Less well-known is their 2007 follow-up, For the Unknown Dog, which premiered in Oldenburg, winning the best young German filmmaker honor, the Otto Sprenger Award, and which applies the Redings’ extreme visual aesthetic and mythic codes of male honor, guilt and redemption to the story of a murderer who finds solace by following the medieval rituals of the carpenter journeyman.