Always arty, always quirky, Berlin is not just hosting a film festival (because surely all cosmopolitan European cities have film festivals), it is taking it to a whole new level. Literally - below ground. The Going Underground film festival is a series of short films to be shown on Berlin’s U-Bahn – the underground metro system.
The idea of the festival is that travellers on the U-Bahn will be able to view the short films, and then both tourists and locals – anyone aboard, in fact – will be able to vote for their favourite. So, basically, by just zooming around the city on your merry way to the Brandenburg Gate or something, you will be experiencing another tourist attraction.
The films will be a maximum of ninety seconds long, which is fortunate, because let’s face it, who on earth wants to sit on an underground train all day, watching a movie? Don’t worry; this won’t cut into your time too much! There are 26 short films – try to catch as many as you can! You can vote for them online or even better via text – and just so you know how much is riding on this for the filmmakers, the first prize is 3000 Euros. Second is 2000, and third 1000, so you might just be funding the next masterpiece of European film.
It’s not a bad idea, when you think of the level of exposure the filmmakers are going to get. There are 4000 screens on board the U-Bahns in Berlin, and they reckon that over the course of week in which the films will be shown, 1.6 million people will view them, whether out of interest or purely accidentally. Furthermore, it’s a creative stretch – a maximum of ninety seconds is hard enough but the films have to be silent, too. Previous entries have covered all bases: black and white, animated, people, animals, comedy, drama... This year is the 8th Going Underground festival, so the standards are high and entries should be very impressive.
So what do we think about that level of entertainment on an underground system? I think it’s about a million times better than the in-your-face, repetitive ads of most public transport systems, staring at you from the bus/train/tram wall across the way. Or the free papers that get your fingers dirty.
But the best aspect of it, of course, is the audience participation. Rather than just sitting there in a blank haze, eyes glazed over and not really seeing anything, you can interact a bit with the journey. You can watch something that might just amuse you. And if it really, really, really amuses you then you can vote for your favourite and help boost someone’s career. Sounds all kinds of fabulous, and far better than your average trip underground.
Just for the record, this year’s festival is run in cooperation with Seoul Metro and Sessif (Seoul), which means the films are also shown in Seoul’s subway, so if you’re making a bit of a trip of it in Korea, you might well catch one or the other. More info and archives can be found at the festival's website. Book a Berlin hotel room and join the fun!