Being a part of 28 Times Cinema

The 28 Times Cinema programme gathered together 28 young film lovers from the 28 member states of the European Union at the 71th Venice International Film Festival. The lucky ones sent to the Lido are invited to watch, report and reflect upon films, and to share their thoughts on the overall experience. What is a film festival like from within? German 28 Times Cinema member Rahel Schöppenthau writes an insightful report about the experience.
 
"Luxembourg discusses with Portugal, Great Britain shares the room with Romania, Hungary has breakfast with Cyprus and Sweden hangs out with Germany, while Slovakia rather prefers to sleep on his own – no, we are not talking about some Big Brother format, neither about a new Miss-show or the Eurovision Song Contest, but about the apartment I share with eight other participants of this year’s 28 Times Cinema.
 
When I received the e-mail confirming that I had been selected as the German candidate for the fifth edition of this initiative, it felt dazzling, exciting and surreal at the same time. Now, I have been here in Venice for seven days already and it is the thought of a life outside the film festival that feels a little absurd. Since the moment I arrived at the Villa degli Autori, the days have been packed with activities and – obviously – films.
 
As the Jury for the Venice Days Award, we had to attend up to three mandatory screenings a day, complemented with panel discussions and workshops with filmmakers and other professionals from the industry. We even got a small insight into the film market on the weekend, a glimpse of the business going on behind the glamour of the red carpet. On Sunday, we had the first of three private Jury meetings with our tutor Karel Och and the Jury’s president Diego Lerman, and I actually was quite happy that I always force myself to take at least some notes on the movies I have just watched. Otherwise it might have turned out pretty difficult to discuss seven films – the first of which we had watched a few hours after my arrival on the Lido – in two hours.
 
Of course this experience is also demanding and exhausting. No Internet, no electricity, no sleep, no time to write a review. All of this has occurred to several of us. When you are sitting through your fourth or even fifth screening of the day, having slept maybe four hours the last night, the temptation of dozing off is hard to fight. Or you might have to accept that you cannot watch one of the films you really wanted to see, because none of the screenings fits into your schedule. Or you have been queuing up for 40 minutes, only to be told that the room is full and you will not get in while the people from other admission categories walk past you. But that is part of the reality of film festivals, and we are part of this reality.
 
Thus, I still think that we are very privileged. Privileged to watch so many films, because, if you do not have anything scheduled, you stuff your free time with screenings of films from the other sections (the Venice Biennale Competition, Orizzonti, the Biennale College Cinema etc.) of course. Usually with the result of being happy when you have time for a cappuccino in between. Privileged to have the chance of getting in touch with so many people from different fields of the movie industry’s landscape like film journalists or producers. This morning, we had a talk with the directors of the three films of the Biennale College Cinema, all of them newcomer helmers, who answered our questions patiently despite the cold wind.
 
And, needless to say, the exchange with the other participants. Of course one has his/her group with which he/she spends most of the time and there are a few people with whom I have hardly spoken at all. Nevertheless, the overall atmosphere is very good and productive in my opinion. It is exciting and inspiring to discuss films with people from such different backgrounds in terms of history, culture, studies etc. I’ve already started a list with movies that have been recommended to me (and which I did not know before). Moreover, the conversations are not exclusively about film, there is also room for art more generally, random topics and lots of fun and laughter. And be it for the only reason that you are just too tired and high on coffee so that the film festival’s introductory video seems exhilarating to you."
 
(by Rahel Schöppenthau)