Das Filmfest München: The Munich International Film Festival

German Director Doris Dörrie (left) at the premiere of her film, “Freibad.”
German Director Doris Dörrie (left) at the premiere of her film, “Freibad,” at the Filmfest München in 2022.

“Das Filmfest München,” the Munich International Film Festival, is the second largest German film festival after the “Berlinale,” and the largest summer film festival in Germany. First held in 1983, the festival takes place in venues across Munich over ten days at the end of June and the beginning of July.

Over the past three years, the Junior Year in Munich Program (JYM) has been actively encouraging students to attend films and artist talks. In 2023, we introduced a new film course that officially integrates the “Filmfest” into our curriculum.

With the exception of retrospectives and tributes, the German and international feature films, documentaries and television shows screened at the “Filmfest München” are German premiers. Even though the festival attracts around 80,000 visitors, it has the same laid-back, vibe that all of Munich has in the summer months.

Tickets are readily available if one orders them early, audience questions are always welcome at artist talks and visitors can rub elbows with actors and directors at movie-theater cafés such as the one at the City-Atelier Kinos between Karlsplatz and Sendinlinger Tor.

JYM Program Director, Dr. Lisabeth Hock, got to know the Munich Film Festival as she was getting to know Munich, in the summer of 2021. The city was just “opening up” after COVID and tickets were easy to come by even though only half the usual number was on sale because mandatory social distancing was still in place. She and JYMer and Wayne State University student Jordon Sampson attended the premier Katharina Marie Schubert’s “Das Mädchen mit den goldenen Händen” at the beautiful, open-air Kino am Olympiasee.  The director and some of the main actors were present and Jordan expressed amazement that she was sitting in an audience so close to prominent figures from the German film industry.

Lisa’s favorite film of the several she viewed that summer was Sarah Blaßkiewitz’s “Ivie wie Ivie,” or “Precious Ivie,” about two Afro-German women who, upon his sudden death, discover they have the same father. Not only did Lisa attend the premier of the film and an artist talk, she was also able to meet Blaßkiewitz and arrange an interview with her. The interview is forthcoming in a volume that Lisa is co-editing.

While proud of our own course offerings and of our 70-year connection with the prestigious Ludwig Maximilian University, JYM regularly tells our participants that Munich is their most important classroom. In the summer of 2022, the “Filmfest” was brought into a JYM classroom for the first time. Participants in the B-1-2 language class were given the assignment to attend a German film or television series pilot and interview two people about their reaction to the showing and the importance of the festival and German film. While they found the task intimidating, the students also found that they were capable of engaging with complete strangers on cultural topics. Some even mustered the courage to ask a question at the artist Q&A.

Emma Bostick, Abbey Matusik and Rebekkah Bowen
Emma Bostick (Wayne State University), Abbey Matusik (Rollins College) and Rebekkah Bowen (Grand Valley State University) in 2022.

After this successful experiment, JYM contacted Munich’s University for Television and Film (Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen, or HFF), which is just down the street from our Institute, to see if any of their lecturers might be interested in developing a summer JYM course in conjunction with the filmfest. That is how we met Elisabeth Korn, M.A., a doctoral candidate n media studies at the Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn and a research assistant and lecturer at the HFF.

Elisabeth developed for JYM the course “Denken, Sprechen und Schreiben über Filme: Eine Einführung in die deutsche Filmlandschaft.” It is taught as a Blockseminar in May and June after which students attend five films at the “Filmfest” and complete writing assignments in which they apply what they learned in the seminar. The course was piloted in summer 2023 and is being taught for the second time this summer.    

Elisabeth Korn
Elisabeth Korn

In an email exchange, Elisabeth described the opportunity to develop the course as a “welcome challenge.” Whereas, at the HFF, she generally teaches “masters-level courses for budding directors, producers and screen-play authors,” she developed for JYM a course that presents an overview of the theoretical, historical and analytical basics.

And while she has been attending the film festival since moving to Munich, the course, in which students see two film festival films together but then select the others themselves, acquaints her with films she might not get to know otherwise.

Teaching U.S. undergraduates has proven to be a pleasant surprise. At the HFF, the students she teaches share her interests and have read the same theoretical works that she has read. At JYM, she finds the students who are no less interested, but who approach the material “with a vigor and inventiveness that can only come about when you encounter a subject for the first time.” After teaching the course for the first time in 2023, she found that she approached “new texts and films with fresh enthusiasm,” and noted, “I really appreciate both forms of teaching because they complement each other well.”

When asked about the film course, Quinn Nordlund-Hefferan (JYM '22-23, Grand Valley State University '24) expressed the enthusiasm that Elisabeth mentions: “The film festival was so interactive and I was able to view larger productions as well as smaller, tighter-knit ones. It was so exciting to get involved within the Munich community in this way!”

Participants in the course, “Einführung in die deutsche Filmlandschaft”
Participants in the course, “Einführung in die deutsche Filmlandschaft,” in 2023. Quinn Nordlund-Hefferan is fourth from left.

Research on studying abroad underscores the importance of not just getting students to another country but also mindfully providing immersion opportunities so that students take part in activities that they might not otherwise experience. The new JYM film course is one such opportunity. We strongly encourage any alumni who are in Munich at the end of June to also check it out!

← Back to listing