Diagonale
Festival of Austrian Film
March 24–29, 2020, Graz

The Diagonale’20 was cancelled due to official measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
 

Sponsor:
AVL Cultural Foundation

Co-sponsors:
Almert & Partner und
Energie Steiermark

Der schönste Platz auf Erden opens the Diagonale’20

Der schönste Platz auf Erden © Golden Girls Film/Elke Groen

Der schönste Platz auf Erden, Elke Groen’s new documentary, will open the Diagonale’20. On the country’s largest screen, the twenty-third edition of the festival of Austrian film in Graz will show Groen’s precisely montaged and penetrating portrait of the provincial microcosm Pinkafeld. The documentary, produced by Golden Girls (Arash T. Riahi and Sabine Gruber with Elke Groen), is celebrating its world premiere in Graz. Present at the opening on March 24 will be Elke Groen, who in the past also appeared notably as editor and director of experimental and documentary works, along with the film’s protagonists.

Pinkafeld in Burgenland
A communal melting pot in a globalized world

The most beautiful place on earth is a bench under a tree. It’s an inn, a disco. Somewhere where there’s no war. Perhaps it’s in Austria. Maybe in Pinkafeld, in Burgenland. A scant six thousand people live here. Der schönste Platz auf Erden begins in 2016. Pinkafeld are behind Norbert Hofer as Federal President, although normally people here vote for the Social Democratic Party. The residents are facing three grueling years. Between the local’s table, traditional “Perchtenlauf,” and the Ibiza video, Elke Groen eavesdrops on the thoughts of the people of Pinkafeld, talks with them, and draws a multi-perspectival picture of social life beyond metropolitan centers. Her open interview situations touch a nerve in the people of Pinkafeld who have been politically shaken and at the same time, have to deal with the realities of their own lives. The most beautiful place on earth is always somewhere individual, but the questions that they’re asking there are universal.

The festival opening, including the awarding of the Grand Diagonale Acting Prize, for service to Austrian film (announcement via media notification) will take place on Tuesday, March 24 in Graz’s Helmut List Halle. With a capacity of more than 1,200 visitors, it will become Austria’s largest cinema for the evening.

 

Der schönste Platz auf Erden © Golden Girls Film/Elke Groen

More on the film Der schönste Platz auf Erden

In the small town of Pinkafeld in Burgenland, a journalist asks the currently most prominent resident: “Is this the Austria that you want to preserve?” And the answer: “Yes, this should be the Austria I would like to preserve.” At the same time, in 2016, the year that Elke Groen began her film, Pinkafeld did not have it easy. A skeptical eye was being cast at the township, home of Norbert Hofer who in this year genuinely had a chance to be elected as Austrian president. A blue politician, a right-wing populist, whom 70 percent of the people in Pinkafeld supported although traditionally, the town stood behind the SPÖ. As one farmer says, people don’t have it so good these days as FPÖ voters. You’re immediately labelled a Nazi.

In the disco “Hallelujah,” people have other concerns. There hasn’t been much business lately – for a variety of reasons. Left behind is a man who runs the place. On the one hand, he’s concerned, but in light of the overall context, he nonetheless looks calmly into the future. After all, ever since hatred in Austria has focused on refugees, the old ressentiment is no longer a topic – people are less interested in Sinti and Roma like him. The humor is black but honest. “We’re going to Ibiza!” by the Vengaboys resounds through the empty dining area shortly after the Ibiza affair. Meanwhile, the Syrian family that has lived in Pinkafeld for two years and feels comfortable there, doesn’t hear any of that. Their view of the microcosm Pinkafeld is shaped by gratitude. An elderly man who claims that he is at home wherever he is at the moment, articulates fear. He doesn’t really trust the immigration statistics that the director presents. In his opinion it’s a clear case of fake news. In Der schönste Platz auf Erden, Elke Groen lets all of these people speak, sometimes digs deeper, lets a lot stand without comment. Her open interview situations touch on a nerve in the people of Pinkafeld who have been politically shaken and at the same time, have to deal with the realities of their own lives.

 

Der schönste Platz auf Erden © Golden Girls Film/Elke Groen

Der schönste Platz auf Erden in the largest cinema in Austria. For us, that makes sense in many ways: For one, because documentary is all too rarely given the largest festival stage. And for another, because Elke Groen has put together a film that contrary to widespread populist clichés, has actually listened to the country – Austria – and sought out dialogue, without telling people what they want to hear. While Groen is interested in life in the provincial cosmos, at the same time, she thinks globally, interconnects her own perception with that of others, locally and internationally. And incidentally, Der schönste Platz auf Erden is, also, most importantly: a crucial record of Austria’s latest contemporary history.”
— Sebastian Höglinger and Peter Schernhuber

Der schönste Platz auf Erden is a film that aims to understand people, however they may think. It’s a film that has no preconceived opinion and thereby approaches things and truths that surprise us. A film, which based on a small community in Burgenland, draws a complex picture of a much larger society that has been torn apart by populism, yet has not given up on the yearning for coherence.”
— Elke Groen

 

Elke Groen © Golden Girls Film/Roland Ferrigato

Elke Groen

Born 1969 in Gmunden, she studied architecture and photography in Vienna. Since 1995, she has worked as a filmmaker and editor. In 2005, founding of groen.film, specializing in experimental film. Most recently, Groen was represented at the Diagonale with the short documentary Bojo Beach (AT 2017) and the innovative work Optical Sound (AT 2014). Her works Optical Sound and Nightstill (AT 2008) premiered in the short film competition of the Berlinale. For the latter, she was additionally honored with the experimental film prize at the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival and also at the International Animation Film Festival Animateka in Ljubljana. As editor, Groen has worked on films such as Der Stoff aus dem Träume sind (D: Michael Rieper, Lotte Schreiber, AT 2019), Free Lunch Society (D: Christian Tod, AT/DE 2017), Und in der Mitte, da sind wir (D: Sebastian Brameshuber, AT 2014), and Global Shopping Village (D: Ulli Gladik, AT 2014).

Films: Bojo Beach (AT 2017, Documentary), Optical Sound (AT 2014, Innovative Cinema), Nightstill (AT 2008, Innovative Cinema), Jeder siebte Mensch (AT/LU 2006, Documentary), Bunica (AT/LU 2005, Documentary), Tito Material (AT 1998, Innovative Cinema)