From Experiment to Role Model

The Tegernsee Mountain Film Festival celebrates its twentieth birthday

Italy has Trento, and Germany has Tegernsee: a mountain film festival that is a fixture among audiences and creatives. The Tegernsee organising team has an anniversary to celebrate this autumn: For the twentieth time, the small city is hosting an international mountain film festival with a competition – and turns into a 5-day base camp for the extensive mountaineering community. By now, mountain lovers from all over the world have Tegernsee on their radar. However, the 2003 festival premier turned into a nail-biter. “At the beginning, no one knew if it would fly,” recalls Michael Pause, who has been the festival’s artistic director ever since. But fly it did: After an initial edition with 2,000 visitors, the event kept growing – in terms of the number of films, tickets and screening venues. Quickly, the experiment developed into a successful role model.

Main initiator was journalist and documentary filmmaker Otto Guggenbichler, who passed on in 2009. The Tegernsee native wanted to see the mountain film genre represented in Germany – not just abroad. On Guggenbichler’s initiative and with the support of the German Alpine Club (DAV), Bavarian Public Broadcasting (BR) and Tegernsee Valley Tourism (Tegernseer Tal Tourismus GmbH), the City of Tegernsee launched the Mountain Film Festival. Former Federal Minister Heiner Geißler acted as festival patron. “The initial phase sparked something of a pioneering spirit among many supporters, even though we didn’t exactly invent the format,” Pause recalls. “We’ve deliberately kept the mountain film genre in focus and refrained from expansions such as research, outdoor and adventure films. Surprisingly, that’s almost a unique selling point.”

To this day, the authenticity of mountain film documentaries continues to inspire, and the genre has lost none of its appeal – mountain film has been attracting audiences to Lake Tegernsee for two decades. Every year, filmmakers from all over the world submit their latest productions to Germany’s only open mountain film competition. Thematically, the range is pretty wide. But all films centre on either mountain life, nature or experience. “The mountains must be tangible”, Pause emphasizes.

The festival is surrounded by Lake Tegernsee’s stunning panoramic views of the Lower Alps. Short distances and compact venues allow filmmakers and audiences to meet across the city. This makes for a great festival mix: mountains inside and outside.