Filmfest Hamburg 2023: Our festival highlights

5 minutes



The 31st Filmfest Hamburg will be held from 28 September to 7 October this year. After Berlin, Hamburg is Germany’s most important film festival. With the motto “Cinema for Everyone”, it’s easy to see why this festival has grown so steadily and has such a loyal following. This year’s lineup has a particularly global flair, with a majority of its 10 sections dedicated to films from a particular region.

In this brief article, we’ll give an overview of some of the highlights of the festival to keep an eye on. A smaller festival like Hamburg is also an ideal first festival to attend. In case any of our readers are heading there, we’ve also just finished with some tips for making your festival experience run smoothly.

Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival

Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival is taking place in other locations this year. The national competition films of the Kyiv International Film Festival will be screened as part of Filmfest Hamburg.

The competition features seven films, all by young directors, as either their first or second feature film. Titles include Anna Buryachkova’s Forever-Forever (2023), Iryna Tsilyk’s Rock. Paper. Grenade. (2022) and Philip Sotnychenko’s La Palisiada (2023). Attending these screenings is a perfect way to get an early view of the rising talent coming out of Ukraine and to show solidarity.

Night of the Film Civic Festival

There’s another festival within Filmfest Hamburg. The Night of the Film Civic Festival is a part of the national celebrations commemorating the Day of German Unity. A series of films that depict the reunification period and the immediately preceding era will be shown for free to audiences at the Passage Kino. It’s an opportunity to catch a glimpse of this historic moment.

The films showing are The Legend of Paul and Paula (1973), Die Akte Lindenberg: Udo und die DDR (2010), Ausgewickelt (a series of shorts) and Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker (1990).

The Theory of Everything – Timm Kröger (2023)

Timm Kröger’s The Theory of Everything could be described as sci-fi noir, a genre that may not even exist. It’s perfect for a film that plays with mystery and reality so cleverly. While the multiverse is a concept that many feel is best suited for superhero blockbusters, it’s used effectively here.

Set in 1962, the film follows a young scientist (Jan Bülow) attending a scientific conference in the Austrian Alps with his gruff adviser. There, he meets a more supportive academic and a mysterious jazz pianist. When the guest of honour fails to appear to deliver his lecture on the theory of everything, the mystery turns murderous and answers may lie in the heart of the mountains.

Perfect Days – Wim Wenders (2023)

Perfect Days is a German-Japanese co-production helmed by director Wim Wenders. Wenders wrote the script alongside Takuma Takasaki. The film premiered at Cannes this year, where it was in competition for the Palme d’Or. While it didn’t win, its lead, Kōji Yakusho, won the Best Actor Award. It has also been longlisted for Best International Feature Film at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Critics and viewers have been enchanted and moved by this lyrical little film. Composed of four vignettes that gradually reveal more about the life of its lead, Perfect Days is the story of Hirayama, a toilet cleaner in Tokyo. It’s a character study as well as a loving portrait of the city.

Poor Things – Yorgos Lanthimos (2023)

Poor Things is the fourth film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos to be screened at Filmfest Hamburg. His previous films, The Lobster (2015), The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) and The Favourite (2018) have cemented his position as one of the most creative and unabashedly weird directors working today.

In Poor Things, Lanthimos’ vision is brought to life to fantastic effect by Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe. Stone’s performance as Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life after her suicide, is particularly impressive. Described as a darkly comic cross between Frankenstein and My Fair Lady, Poor Things is ultimately a story of discovery and liberation.

Doing a film festival right

The chief difficulty with a film festival is knowing your limits. Just because you can see everything doesn’t mean you should. If you find that you start losing focus after the fourth film of the day, keep your limit to four – you can’t do that fifth film justice if you’re not paying attention.

No matter how well you manage to pack your schedule, you’ll always have a fair amount of downtime between screenings. Depending on venue locations and travel time between them, you often have a lot of time with nothing particular to do.

Focusing on films requires a level of concentration that’s hard to maintain over a full day. Having something relaxing to do between films breaks that up and lets you reset before the next screening begins. Spending time reading works for some and so does playing games.

Mobile games are a great time filler and distraction, and most importantly, they’re portable. Online casino games are a particularly good choice because they fit with the cosmopolitan feel of a film festival. Playing live casino table games at an online casino can temporarily transport you to Las Vegas or Venice, both cities being known for their casinos and film festivals.

Snacks are also essential for a successful film festival experience. Opinion will always be divided over whether it’s acceptable to eat at the cinema, but we’re not here to settle that debate. Instead of risking annoying all of their other festival-goers, why not use some of the gaps between films to grab a bite to eat.

We also suggest wearing layers. The temperature differences in cinemas is shocking sometimes. This may sound ridiculous but an overly warm cinema after a day of films can put you to sleep, while being too cold makes it harder to focus and feel fully immersed in a film.

Founded in 2010, CineVue’s team of passionate cinéastes are working to bring you reviews of the latest cinema releases, as well as features, interviews and international film festival coverage.


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