The Soul of Independence

On April 7 of this year, actor and longtime champion of the Oldenburg International Film Festival Seymour Cassel passed away. One of the faces of American independent film, having worked on many of John Cassavetes‘ films, he always effortlessly moved between Hollywood and the indies. Over the years, Oldenburg has shown more than 20 of his films and Cassel visited the North German city many times. In 2013, he was awarded the Grand Seal of the City of Oldenburg by Mayor Schwandner in recognition of his contributions to the city and its festival.

»If you work with people who love you and your work, it challenges you. You get more out of it than just money.« The love for his work was an impulse that made his acting so inimitable. He loved improvising as well as the disciplined development of his characters; his art was one of animated action. His role as Chat in Cassavetes‘ »Faces« and the love story between Seymour and Gena Rowlands in »Minnie and Moskowitz« will be unforgotten. His performance as the charming gangster Joe in Alex Rockwell’s »In the Soup« remains one of the magic moments of independent cinema.

As a young acting student, he attended a workshop at the Actors Studio by John Cassavetes, who became his mentor. In 1958 Cassel served as an associate producer on »Shadows«, which – after its great success in Venice – jumpstarted the modern American independent cinema. Seymour Cassel was a guiding light on the edge of Hollywood, an authentic actor who could command the screen with his charismatic presence.

His love of life was contagious – in his presence one felt alive, because he was so full of life. Maybe Oldenburg was his second great love. After his mentor and friend John Cassavetes left him too early, he became our mentor and friend. He often told me that the way we run our festival reminded him of his own appreciation for his work, this passion and love for what we do. Nobody gave us as much passion as Seymour Cassel.

Along with the classics »Minnie and Moskowitz« by John Cassavetes and »In the Soup« by Alexandre Rockwell (which will be shown in a restored version previously unavailable in Germany), there will also be a screening of LeVar Burton’s »Reach for Me«, which had its world-premiere in 2008 at the Oldenburg State Theatre. Seymour Cassel‘s performance as a hospice-patient was effusively celebrated and honored with a seemingly endless standing ovation. It was an experience the 500 members of the audience would never forget.