'Puppy Love' to Open Oldenburg Festival

Puppy Love
Todd Hido_(c)Ozman Pictures

Michael Maxxis' directorial debut, starring Hopper Penn, kicks off a typically eclectic Oldenburg line-up, that will screen on-location and online this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Puppy Love, a comedic drama from Canadian director Michael Maxxis, will open the 2020 Oldenburg International Film Festival, Germany's leading independent film fest. 

The debut feature from the music-video helmer stars Hopper Penn (Sean Penn's son) as a prophetic young dishwasher with brain-damage who falls for a homeless prostitute, played by Paz de la Huerta (Enter the Void). The ensemble cast includes indie stalwarts Rosanna Arquette, Wayne Newton, and Michael Madsen.

It seems a fitting title for Oldenburg, which prides itself on swimming against the mainstream and providing a platform for truly independent cinema from around the world. 

The line-up at Oldenburg this year is a typically eclectic mix, with highlights including Miguel Silveira's American Thief —a teen hacker drama that combines fictional scenes with documentary footage shot during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections—the documentary Miracle Fishing, director Miles Hargrove's account of his father's 1994 kidnapping in Columbia, told through the VHS footage Hargrove shot as a child at the time; and Buck Alamo, the feature debut of U.S. director Ben Epstein, described as a "musical-acid western."

Argentine director Moroco Colman, whose first film, Weekend, screened in Oldenburg in 2017, returns with his sophomore effort, The Longest Night. The horror thriller tells the true story of Argentina's most notorious serial rapist, a dedicated husband, and father who lived a parallel life, preying for decades on the young women in the college city of Córdoba. Despite coronavirus restrictions, Oldenburg has received a special dispensation to allow Colman to travel to Germany to attend the festival. 

Untimely, another inspired-by-true-events drama, from Iranian filmmaker Pouya Eshtehardi. The debut feature follows a young private doing his military service on a watchtower on the border of Iran and Pakistan. Other international highlights include Shorta, a crime thriller from Danish filmmaking duo Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Olholm, the domestic violence drama Submission from Portuguese director Leonardo António, and Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson's Mexico City-set Summer White, a critical hit from this year's Sundance Festival. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Oldenburg this year will be a hybrid festival, with in-person screenings and films also simultaneously streamed online. The festival has teamed with German VOD platform Pantaflix to coordinate its online offerings.  

These will include a live-streamed Q&A with The Exorcist director William Friedkin. Oldenburg is honoring the 84-year-old director, whose credits also include The French Connection, Sorcerer, and To Live and Die in L.A., with a retrospective of his life's work

The 2020 Oldenburg International Film Festival runs Sept. 16-20.