The Big Day
What is a “Schützenfest” (shooting festival) and what is it for? According to the websites of shooting clubs and club supply stores, these celebrations serve a dual purpose: on the one hand, they preserve traditions, and on the other hand, they offer a wide range of entertainment for the local population and guests. Both aspects can be seen in Lennart Hüper’s and Lennart Miketta's The Big Day: the local customs being maintained, and the all-purpose nature of the event. Its elements include a morning pint, a village wedding, and an annual carnival – rural event culture presenting togetherness in its own way. Hüper’s brief, trenchant documentary follows the major stages of the eponymous annual festival in Brilon in the Sauerland of Germany in all its dramatic spectacle: from the parade of the local shooting fraternity, to the men-only “Schnadezug” march along the city limits, to the shooting competition in which a new King of the Marksmen is crowned. The film’s witty visuals and montage don’t dwell on deciphering overtly conservative semantics. The Big Day draws its considerable energy from juxtaposing the observance of tradition with public entertainment, and the social hustle and bustle that shapes both.
The spacious tableaus are not so much focal points of the ritual, but rather invitations, excesses, and contrary elements to be detected at the edges of the image and between the shots. At the beginning, a volunteer staffer checks how many naturalistic decorative branches the hall lighting can support; at the end, traditional drummers play a duet in a back room while “I Will Survive” can be heard through the wall from the dance hall next door. In between, in the name of climate protection, an official speech makes its bid to a collective “we”: a small, unsettling touch that delineates the boundaries of a film audience that themselves probably do not attend shooting festivals. (Joachim Schätz)
Translation: John Wojtowicz