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Robert Dassanowsky. A tribute

Robert Dassanowsky. A tribute

Robert Dassanowsky died in Colorado in October 2023 at the age of 63. We will remember him not only as a close partner of the festival, but above all as a good friend. Over the next three months, we want to pay tribute to Robert and his work with selected films.

It has been 15 years since Robert Dassanowsky first contacted us at Vienna Shorts.. His mother Elfi - a legendary opera singer, pianist and one of the driving forces behind Austrian film in the post-war period - had just died unexpectedly in Los Angeles. This made Robert want to establish a director's award for women in her honor to encourage female filmmakers to follow in Elfi's footsteps and make a name for themselves in the highly competitive industry.

In 2010, we awarded the Elfi Dassanowsky Prize for the first time as part of Vienna Shorts, and since then we have also enjoyed a close friendship with Robert. Inspiring phone calls, long evenings in Viennese restaurants and frequent visits to our festival, whenever it was possible for the busy film historian and professor at the University of Colorado (UCCS), showed his passion for the arts and his extensive historical knowledge.

Robert was born in New York in 1960, but remained in close connection to Austria - especially his beloved Vienna - throughout his life. He was a professor of German and film studies in Colorado, and his extensive and highly regarded research focussed among other things on Austrian film studies and Austro-Hungarian literature. "If there were a Nobel Prize for film and literary studies, Dassanowsky would be on the list," wrote the UCCS in its obituary.

It also emphasizes how much students appreciated Robert's way of teaching. He was always bubbling over with ideas, always had an open ear and was able to get people excited about Austrian film and filmmaking like no other. Robert once told us at a dinner party that he got his love of storytelling from his mother, as he recounted amusing and touching anecdotes from his life together with the versatile pioneer.

In Vienna, a grave of honor and memorial plaques commemorate Elfi, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday in January - and of course the 14 winners of the Elfi Dassanowsky Award. We now want to honor the work of Robert and the Dassanowsky Foundation with a selection of the award-winning films. From today on, films by Inger Lise Hansen, Alex Gerbaulet and Katharina Huber, among others, will be available for three months on the THIS IS SHORT streaming platform.

In one of our last conversations, Robert once again spoke about his dream of leaving the USA and living in Vienna. Unfortunately, he was no longer able to fulfill this dream. However, he was pleased to hear that a tree was planted in Hermann-Gmeiner-Park in the city center in honor of the last winner of the Elfi Dassanowsky Prize 2023. One could say, in this way Robert and his work will remain rooted in the city forever.

Rest in peace, dear Robert. We will miss you.

Daniel Hadenius-Ebner, Doris Bauer & the Vienna Shorts team

News 20.3.2024