Since 1986 the Berlin International Film Festival has presented the Berlinale Camera to film personalities or institutions to which it feels particularly indebted and wishes to express its thanks.
At the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, three personalities were awarded the Berlinale Camera: producer, cinema operator and film distributor Ben Barenholtz (USA); actor, director, writer and producer Tim Robbins (USA); and cinema operator Marlies Kirchner (Germany).
Born in Eastern Poland, now part of Ukraine, Ben Barenholtz became one of the most important figures in the American indie film scene. He immigrated to the US in 1947 and began his career as an assistant manager of the RKO Bushwick movie theatre in New York in 1959. From 1966 to 1968, he managed the Village Theater, which became an important venue for the counterculture and anti-Vietnam protests. It also featured many jazz giants of that period, such as Nina Simone and John Coltrane, as well as bands like The Who and Cream. In 1968, he opened the Elgin Cinema, which became a key venue for independent filmmakers and repertory cinema. It provided a home for the early film works by luminaries such as Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, and the revival of the Buster Keaton films. He invented the legendary “midnight movie” format, with the screening of El Topo (D: Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970), which helped raise underground filmmaking to cult status. In 1972, Barenholtz founded the distribution company Libra Films, which released films such as Just Before Nightfall (D: Claude Chabrol, 1971), Cousin Cousine (D: Jean-Charles Tacchella, 1975) and Eraserhead (D: David Lynch, 1977). In 1984, he joined Circle Releasing as President, distributing such films as 36 Fillette (D: Catherine Breillat, 1988), Tales from Gimli Hospital (D: Guy Maddin, 1988), Thérèse (D: Alain Cavalier, 1986), and Blood Simple (1984), the Coen brothers’ first feature film.
Barenholtz began his involvement in film production with the Coen brothers, serving as executive producer on Raising Arizona (1987), Miller’s Crossing (1990), and Barton Fink (1991), which swept the three top prizes at the Cannes film festival. He went on to produce many successful films, such as Georgia (D: Ulu Grosbard, 1995) and Requiem for a Dream (D: Darren Aronofsky, 2000). In 2008, he was invited to join the Jury for the Best First Feature Award at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival. He made his directorial debut, Music Inn, about the famous music venue, in 2005, which was followed by Wakaliwood: The Documentary (2012), shot entirely in Kampala, Uganda.
Ben Barenholtz was awarded the Berlinale Camera on Friday, February 12, 2016 in the cinema at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, with the Coen brothers in attendance. A Q&A moderated by Michael Barker followed a screening of the work-in-progress documentary Perseverance, which was produced by Polish Television, and deals with Barenholtz’s life.
The Berlinale Camera award to Ben Barenholtz kicked off a new tradition of honouring an outstanding producer with the prestigious award each year as part of the European Film Market.
American Tim Robbins has been a successful working actor, director, writer and producer in Hollywood for almost 40 years. He won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Mystic River (D: Clint Eastwood, 2003), and a Best Actor Award at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival for his role in Robert Altman’s The Player (1992). His additional acting credits include such films as Bull Durham (D: Ron Shelton, 1988), Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), The Shawshank Redemption (D: Frank Darabont, 1994), The Hudsucker Proxy (D: Joel & Ethan Coen, 1994), Isabel Coixet’s The Secret Life of Words (2005) and Fernando León de Aranoa’s A Perfect Day (2015.)
Robbins wrote and directed the 1992 political satire, Bob Roberts, and the 1999 film, Cradle Will Rock, which earned a nomination for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won two Gran Angular Awards – Best Film and Best Director – at the Sitges Film Festival (Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya.) The death row drama, Dead Man Walking, won several prizes at the 1996 Berlin International Film Festival, including a Silver Bear for lead actor Sean Penn, and went on to earn four Academy Award nominations, with Susan Sarandon winning for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Robbins attended the Berlinale once again in 2013 as a member of the International Jury.
In addition to his work on film, Robbins is founder of The Actors’ Gang, a theatre ensemble based in Los Angeles where he has served for over 30 years as Artistic Director. The Gang has been touring throughout the US and internationally with productions of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, George Orwell’s “1984”, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine” and “Embedded”.
Additionally, the Actors’ Gang Prison Project works to help California prison inmates rehabilitate themselves through the arts, with acting members of the Gang, including Robbins, working with inmates in several California Prisons. To date more than 500 inmates have participated in The Prison Project, which recently received the endorsement of the California Department of Corrections and the U.S. Justice Department.
In 2014, Robbins was honored with the National Guild for Community Arts Education Leadership Award, recognizing his innovative and socially conscious work as a film and theater artist, his passionate commitment to equity and social justice, as well as his steadfast advocacy and support for arts education. The Guild noted that “The Prison Project at The Actors’ Gang is an inspiring, national model for our field which demonstrates the power of arts participation to unlock human potential and creativity, heal, and transform lives.”
The Berlinale Camera was awarded to Tim Robbins on Saturday, February 13, 2016 in the Kino International cinema, with Catalan director Isabel Coixet giving the honorific speech and German actor Louis Klamroth presenting. The award ceremony was followed by a screening of Dead Man Walking (1995).
Cinema operator Marlies Kirchner has been dedicated to film for more than 40 years. She first worked for distributor Neue Filmkunst at Cannes, before becoming co-owner of the arthouse Theatiner Filmkunst in Munich. She initially ran it together with her husband, Walter Kirchner, before becoming sole operator in 1975. The cinema, in a listed building, opened in 1957 with the Italian comedy Cops and Robbers starring Totò and, over the years, has become a Munich institution and mecca for movie devotees. The cinema has always presented a programme of high-quality films. From films banned in the Nazi era to avant-garde films, and European auteur cinema, usually shown in their original language with subtitles, the repertory offers Munich’s moviegoers a diverse and sophisticated selection of films. The distribution arm, Neue Filmkunst, supplements that with discoveries from film festivals. The film theatre’s contribution to keeping art films alive and Marlies Kirchner’s endeavours in sustaining high quality cinema in the Bavarian state capital have been honoured several times with the city’s prize for cinemas (“Kinoprogrammpreis”), most recently in 2015. The Munich film festival also dedicated its 1999 homage to her.
Marlies Kirchner was awarded the Berlinale Camera on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at the Berlinale Lunch Club.
The Berlinale Camera has been awarded since 1986. Until 2003, it was donated by Berlin-based jeweller David Goldberg. From 2004 through 2013, Georg Hornemann Objects, a Dusseldorf-based atelier, sponsored the trophy, which goldsmith Hornemann redesigned for the Berlinale in 2008: Modelled on a real camera, the Berlinale Camera now has 128 finely crafted components. Many of these silver and titanium parts, such as the swivel head and tripod, are movable. (Berlinale Press Office)