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International Short Film Festival Oberhausen

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International Short Film Festival Oberhausen

International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (German: Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen)
Location Oberhausen, Germany.
Founded -1954 as Westdeutsche Kulturfilmtage
-1959 renamed as Westdeutsche Kurzfilmtage
-1991 renamed as Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen
Film titles Short films
Festival date Held annually

The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, founded in 1954, is one of the oldest short film festivals in the world and one of the major international platforms for the short form. The festival holds an International Competition, German Competition and International Children’s and Youth Film Competition as well as the MuVi Award for best German music video and, since 2009, the NRW Competition for productions from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Oberhausen is furthermore known today for its extensive thematic programmes such as “Unreal Asia” (2009), “From the Deep: The Great Experiment 1898–1918” (2010) and “Shooting Animals. A Brief History of Animal Film” (2011). The festival in addition offers visitors a well-equipped Video Library, operates a non-commercial short-film distribution service and owns an archive of short films from over 60 years of cinema history.


The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen was founded in 1954 by the director of the Oberhausen Volkshochschule (adult education centre), Hilmar Hoffmann, in association with the Filmclub Oberhausen under the name “1st West German Educational Film Festival”. The event was initially geared to fulfilling an educational policy mandate and the motto chosen for the first festival was hence “Cultural Film – Route to Education”. Featured were 45 films from the Federal Republic of Germany, France and the USA.

At the 4th West German Educational Film Festival, in 1958, the motto “Way to the Neighbour” was introduced, under which the festival took place until 1997. In 1959 the festival was rechristened “West German Short Film Festival”. Oberhausen soon made a political name for itself, chiefly because many films produced in the Eastern Bloc could only be viewed in Oberhausen, a situation that led to the festival’s rapid ascent and its reputation as “short film mecca”. As early as the 1950s, however, visitors were also treated to works by young filmmakers from the West such as François Truffaut, Norman McLaren, Alain Resnais, Bert Haanstra and Lindsay Anderson. At the fourth festival in 1958, 190 films from 29 countries were already included in the programme.

At the eighth festival in 1962 a group of young German filmmakers, among them Alexander Kluge, Peter Schamoni and Edgar Reitz, issued the Oberhausen Manifesto, pronouncing the “old” film dead and declaring their aspiration to create a new kind of German film.

The 1960s then culminated in a 1968 scandal surrounding Hellmuth Costard’s film Besonders wertvoll, in which a talking penis criticized the new Film Funding Act of 1967. Responding to an objection issued by the public prosecutor’s office, the festival removed the film from the official programme, whereupon many German filmmakers withdrew their works from the festival. Oberhausen emerged from the crisis with an amended set of regulations, including a public selection procedure for German films.

In the 1970s the women’s movement was a touchstone at the festival, with young filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman and Helma Sanders-Brahms showing their first films in Oberhausen. With its Children’s and Youth Cinema, the festival inaugurated a new competition category in 1978. The 1970s also witnessed a wave of new festivals: ousted from the cinema, the short form found new screening options in the festival arena.

In the late 1980s video and new media began to gradually come onto the scene at Oberhausen. With the subsidence of the East/West conflict that had shaped the festival’s early years, its role as “window to the East” slowly faded. Now, the festival’s profile as mediator and trailblazer between the worlds of short film and advertising clip, music video, industrial film and video art – often subsumed under the generic term avant-garde – came to the fore.

In 1991 the festival was renamed the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, the name it still bears today. That same year, Oberhausen introduced the nation’s first competition for German short film. Since 1993 the festival has given film and video equal standing in its competitions. In 1999 Oberhausen introduced the first film-festival award for music videos anywhere in the world, known as the MuVi, which is still today awarded exclusively to directors for the visual quality of their clips.[3] With the rise of video art more and more films made by artists have found their way into the festival programmes.

Today Oberhausen presents short films and videos originating from a wide range of formal, cultural and social backgrounds. Large-scale special programmes take up a different theme each year, most recently “Unreal Asia” (2009), “From the Deep: The Great Experiment 1898–1918” (2010) and “Shooting Animals. A Brief History of Animal Film” (2011). The festival also maintains a Video Library featuring a large selection of recent international short films, regularly mounts profile programmes dedicated to individual artists, and each year hosts a discussion series called “Podium”.

Besides organizing the festival, Oberhausen operates a non-commercial short film distribution service and its own archive holding short films from over 60 years of film history.


“I smoked my first cigarette here. For years, I saw every single film at the Westdeutsche Kurzfilmtage, looking forward to those days in Oberhausen every year. These events were important for me, for my decision to become a filmmaker.” Wim Wenders, filmmaker, Germany

“Short film is a great first step for a budding filmmaker. That’s how I made my beginnings, and Oberhausen was an important step on my path to become a director.” Roman Polanski, filmmaker, Poland/France

During the long history of the Oberhausen festival, many careers got off to a successful start. A few of the filmmakers and artists who showed their early works in Oberhausen: : Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Doug Aitken, Kenneth Anger, Andrea Arnold, Jürgen Böttcher, Stan Brakhage, Vera Chytilová, Valie Export, Miloš Forman, Werner Herzog, Christoph Hochhäusler, Hermine Huntgeburth, Joris Ivens, Isaac Julien, Miranda July, Romuald Karmakar, Jochen Kuhn, Jan Lenica, Chris Marker, Bjørn Melhus, Dore O., Roman Polanski, Pipilotti Rist, Christoph Schlingensief, Martin Scorsese, István Szabó, Agnès Varda, Adolf Winkelmann.


  • 1954 founded as Westdeutsche Kulturfilmtage
  • 1958 introduction of the motto "Weg zum Nachbarn"
  • 1959 renamed as Westdeutsche Kurzfilmtage
  • 1962 Oberhausen Manifesto
  • 1970 first computer-animated film
  • 1989 introduction of a video section
  • 1991 renamed as Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen; launch of the first German short film competition ever
  • 1993 all competitions are opened for video productions to compete on an equal footing with film
  • 1999 first film festival music video award in the world introduced
  • 2002 co-founder of the AG Kurzfilm e.V., the lobbying organisation for German short film


  • more than 5,500 submissions from around 90 countries annually
  • approximately 450 films shown at each festival
  • more than 1,000 accredited international visitors annually
  • awards totalling more than 41,000 €
  • accredited by the FIAPF since 1960
  • reference festival of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Festival directors

  • 1954–1970: Hilmar Hoffmann
  • 1971–1975: Will Wehling
  • 1975–1985: Wolfgang J. Ruf
  • 1985–1990: Karola Gramann
  • 1990–1997: Angela Haardt
  • Since 1997: Lars Henrik Gass

External links

  •, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen official website
  • The international short film festival in Oberhausen 2011 - a recapitulation

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