Thomas Zandegiacomo Del Bel on ZEBRA and poetry films

Directly following the awards ceremony at the end of the 2014 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, I sat down with ZEBRA’s artistic director, Thomas Zandegiacomo Del Bel, for a brief chat. I wanted to learn a bit more about how he and the other members of the program committee (Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck, Heinz Hermanns, Ulrike Almut Sandig and Heiko Strunk) chose the films to be screened, and how Literaturwerkstatt Berlin manages to plan and produce such a big festival. And snce Zandegiacomo is something of an expert on the history of poetry film, I wanted to ask what trends or fashions he’s seen in recent years, and where he sees the genre going in the future.

Mention is made of another Literaturwerkstatt production, lyrikline — an online archive of audiopoetry comparable to PennSound in the U.S., but many times larger and more international in its focus. They just added their 1000th poet on October 18.

The ZEBRA zebraAs for my own impressions of ZEBRA as a first-time attendee: I found it very well-organized (albeit with a few technical glitches), intellectually and aesthetically stimulating, and a bit overwhelming. It was impossible to attend all the screenings, readings and other events even with a number of repeat screenings in the schedule — especially if one also took advantage of the opportunity to drink beer network and socialize each night. As I say in the video, I liked the way filmmakers were invited on-stage for brief interviews with the moderator after their films were aired, though I did hear other attendees complain that this interrupted the flow. As a web native, I suppose I have a pretty high tolerance for interruptions and distractions. But the folks at Literaturwerkstatt Berlin take the “werkstatt” (workshop) part of their name very seriously; craft talks are part of their core mission.

I was very impressed by the three-person jury (Cornelia Klauss, Alice Lyons and Michael Roes). Each of their four choices was a challenging, unconventional film-poem, in contrast to some of the more mainstream prizewinners from past ZEBRAs. I got the impression that 100% of the prize money goes to the filmmakers, but perhaps some of them will split it with the poets whose work they used, as I heard one animator in the awards ceremony audience vow to do if she won. I liked the themed screenings and was frustrated that I couldn’t attend more of them, but fortunately the paper edition of the festival program includes every film, so I can watch all the ones that have been uploaded to the web (probably at least half of them).

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