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The yield of it all – A look back at the 1st Asian Hot Shots Berlin

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Among the many lessons life apparently wants us to learn is the undeniable fact that one cannot import sunlight to where there’s a natural lack of it, right?

ahsb.jpgBut facts need to be challenged of course, and for just seven days in mid-January our wintry city of Berlin (also known as the somewhat bearish capital of Germany) experienced an unprecedented outburst of exactly that: travelling warmth from someplace far away.

For the inaugural edition of the Asian Hot Shots Berlin (AHSB), a new Asian-themed film festival, audiences and festival staff alike were exposed to nothing short of an Asian Invasion taking over (and balancing) the general moodscape of town. Lo and behold: there it was, shining brightly and radiating some of the love that brought these pictures into being! Films from many different countries all across the Asian region, some 200 plus of them (including short films) by mostly young and first-time directors, were screened to an appreciative audience and well received.

Although not all of the three venues at the classical movie theatre “Babylon” (the city’s last surviving cinema from the 1920’s golden era of silent film, in fact) were always filled to capacity, still, overall acceptance of the festival’s programming was good. So when at this point I have to admit that I may be considered biased due to my own involvement in the event, obviously, I can confirm that whatever little hiccups occurred, technical and otherwise, it only strengthened the team’s sense of responsibility and the firm resolve in all of us to continue doing what we believe in. And that is bringing more good “Asian content” (that’s the terminology, can’t help it) from daring, independent filmmakers over to Europe and our beloved city of Berlin.

Now, there were films, there were parties, the Opening and Awards Ceremony; there were discussion panels on various topics; there was a very inspiring workshop on questioning the workings and appeal of stereotypes in film, held in collaboration with the established dffb (Deutsche Film- und Fersehakademie Berlin) at the Potsdamer Platz; there was a lively atmosphere of debating and mutual interest, in short: there was quite a lot for a first one off the ground – not just the cold weather! The AHSB was (and will continue to be) not a showcasing venue for glitzy perfection looking for buyers. Rather, it is about is the activating mission of open-minded people, of creative people, willing to challenge themselves and others through their dedicated work in the art and craft of filmmaking, who come together for the occasion of having a meaningful exchange with interested people and peers over here.

And this is what actually happened. The festival’s valued guests from across Asia (quite a few among them from Singapore, so I’ve been told…) had many opportunities for meeting up, engaging with fellow filmmakers and getting feedback from movie-goers in the Q&A sessions after their respective screenings. True, German audiences can be a bit reluctant in speaking up, but we do have a highly sophisticated, passionate and thoroughgoing public of cineastes in Berlin, who harbour very distinct points of view. The AHSB is a film festival after all, and so it is that as a forum for “critical self-indulgence”, this is how it works. You have a passion, an idea, you make your movie, you bring it here and share it with others. You put something in and get a qualified return, a feedback, an alternate angle and exciting new perspective; you can really make a connection if you want to. To my understanding, this in itself is a reward and certainly worth coming over, is it not?
Germany (still) is the third largest economy in the world, and its people care about the arts. So there is a potential, I’d say; you can take advantage of your English language capability to help you get the most out of it – and there always is the next festival, next year’s edition of the AHSB to attend.

berlin.jpg As a final note in this let me do away with your last secret doubts if I may: Germany might not seem the coolest place to go to, I give you that. But truly Berlin, a genuine feel for independence on both sides and your taste for beginnings – there’s fun to be had! We on our part are ready to continue working together with The Substation and Sinema in managing the influx of submissions of films of every genre (short or feature) that in response to the Asian Hot Shot’s call for entries accounted for the outstanding, the remarkably strong showing of Singapore films this year. It is an adventure and a gate-opener, I am very sure. Let’s keep it up and let’s foster and build on this promising foundation. Berlin and Singapore: there is more than just one connection. Join us!

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