As well as being an opportunity to preview anticipated new films by Austrian directors, the festival is also a celebration of Austria’s rich cinematic heritage. This year, watchAUT looks back to 1929 with a special archive screening of silent film FRAU IM MOND by internationally lauded director Fritz Lang. Often considered as the first ‘serious’ science fiction film, it’s a fascinating historical counterpoint to today’s spectacular sci-fi epics – including Leni Lauritsch’s space station thriller RUBIKON, one of the new Austrian films set to screen at this year’s watchAUT alongside others including opening gala THE FOX, award-winning LGBTQ+ drama EISMAYER, and environmental documentary MATTER OUT OF PLACE.
Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum London, Waltraud Dennhardt-Herzog says: “watchAUT is an international platform for a new generation of pioneering Austrian film talent. As well as looking forward to some of the most anticipated new films from Austria, this year watchAUT also looks back at Austria’s rich cinematic heritage with a special presentation of one of Austrian auteur Fritz Lang’s most iconic but rarely seen silent films.”
(dir: Adrian Goigingers, Germany/Austria, 2022). UK Premiere. The true story of Franz Streitberger, the director’s great-grandfather, a motorcycle courier for the Austrian Army. At the beginning of the Second World War, this introverted young soldier comes across a wounded fox cub that he looks after and takes to occupied France with him – and through this unique friendship, his own past as an outcast farmers son slowly catches up with him. Including Q&A with director Adrian Goiginger and lead actor Simon Morzé. 23 March.
CLOSING FILM: FRAU IM MOND
(dir: Fritz Lang, Germany, 1929). An early film by visionary Austrian director Fritz Lang, Woman in the Moon follows a band of space pioneers as they attempt mankind’s first lunar voyage. This silent sci-fi epic is often considered as the first ‘serious’ science fiction film due to its realistic depiction of space travel. When the film premiered 94 years ago, it introduced cinema audiences to many elements that we now readily associate with space travel, including the idea of a countdown before the launch of a rocket. Presented in its rarely seen full-length version with live piano accompaniment, transporting the audience back to the era of silent film. 26 March.
EISMAYER (dir: David Wagner, Austria, 2022). London Premiere. Vice Lieutenant Eismayer is the most feared trainer and model macho in the Austrian Army, despite being a gay man in secret. When he falls in love with a young openly gay soldier, his world gets turned upside down. Based on real events, this LGBTQ+ feature championed at numerous film festivals, including Venice where it won the Grand Prize at Venice International Critics Week and was nominated for the Queer Lion. Including Q&A with director David Wagner. 24 March.
I AM THE TIGRESS (dir: Philipp Fussenegger, Dino Osmanoviç, Austria/United States/Germany, 2021). A favourite at BFI Flare, this intimate documentary portrays Tischa Thomas aka The Tigress – a 47-year-old mother and competitive bodybuilder whose physical strength and prowess contrasts with her beneath-the-surface vulnerability. Including Q&A with directors and Tischa Thomas. 25 March.
MATTER OUT OF PLACE (dir: Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria, 2022). Winner of the WWF Green Leopard at Locarno International Film Festival, this environmental documentary captures the dispersion of garbage – observing the sisyphos-like work of garbage collectors and waste managers around the world. 25 March.
RUBIKON (dir: Leni Lauritsch, Austria, 2022). British actor George Blagden (Versailles, Vikings) stars alongside Austrian actress Julia Franz Richter and Ukrainian-born actor Mark Ivanir (The Human Resources Manager, The Good Shepherd) in this sci-fi drama. When Earth suddenly disappears in a toxic brown fog and all contacts are broken, the crew of a space station must decide whether to stay safe in space or risk their lives to get home and search for survivors. 26 March.
VERA (dir: Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel, Austria, 2022). Winner of the Venice Horizons Award for Best Director, as well as Best Actress for Vera Gemma, this Italian language drama co-stars Asia Argento and tells the story of Vera: a woman who lives in the shadow of her famous father and is tired of her superficial life amidst Rome’s high society. When she injures an 8-year-old child in a traffic accident, she forms an intense relationship with the boy and his father. 24 March.