Category Archives: #Berlinale

68th Belinale: May We Have Some Diversity, Please?

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 

Seeing and witnessing the ever-changing, shape-shifting of film festival perspectives, the Berlin International Film Festival, known simply as the Berlinale, lays testament to not only the validity of film as a cultural force but also its ability to transform and expand consciousness. With too many films to lend as examples of this, for simplicity I’ll just propose The Other Side of Hope.

But, let’s get back to the festivals. The best festivals, in my opinion, are highly organic and are representational of their respective communities. Having had an opportunity to attend the 67th Berlinale, I found my own awareness shift from a film-oriented focus to a focus on my German film-going cohorts, primarily German journalists. Having been nurtured via Southern California festivals (AFIFEST in Hollywood and Santa Barbara International Film Festival), I arrived well-before screening time and found myself engaging with my fellow attendees. So the article below goes beyond a resonance – it’s an awakening. Be sure to read it through to the end. You’ll be glad you did!

 

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Adina Pintilie (Touch Me Not), Tom Tykwer, Dieter Kosslick
Berlinale 2018

The magic of the Berlinale derives from the audience itself. For everyone present, it is as simple as it is complicated: a journey into one’s own emotions, a short trip out of the bustling city into the world of possibilities to live one’s life in a different way.

—- Robert Ide, Der Tagesspiegel, February 26 2018

In one sense, the 2018 Berlinale began early: on November 24, 2017. With the somewhat sensationalist title “Filmmakers Want to Revolutionise the Berlinale”, Spiegel Online published an appeal from 79 film directors that the procedure chosen to select the new Festival Director should be transparent. This was a legitimate request. Dieter Kosslick’s contract ended in 2019 and the processes of appointing leading positions in Berlin’s cultural institutions had in recent years sometimes lead to unfortunate choices and even met with massive opposition – the memory of the turmoil following the installation of Chris Dercon as artistic director of the Volksbühne was still fresh.

But what then turned the appeal into a farce was the article in which the few words from the filmmakers were embedded. Hannah Pilarczyk wrote: “Instead of sharpening the profile of the festival in terms of content, Kosslick has sought to counter the loss of significance with a constant expansion of sections and special presentations. This has led to a mess of programmes which in themselves are as insubstantial as the competition and mean that attention and discussion is scattered rather than concentrated” (Spiegel Online, November 24, 2017). Instead of focusing on the deficiencies and structures of cultural policy, the debate was turned into a final reckoning of the Festival Director. This was a totally unintended turn of events, as one of the joint signatories, Christian Petzold, later made clear: “Our appeal became personalised and was turned into a judgement of Dieter Kosslick, even though he had nothing at all to do with it” (in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel, February 16, 2018). An incensed Dominik Graf similarly spoke out: “If I had known that our letter would be dragged into the journalistic swamp of a judgement on Kosslick, I would never have signed it” (in Die Zeit, November 29, 2017).

The appeal was instrumentalised to channel often personal and long-held sensitivities into a kind of vendetta. In the Spiegel article, Pilarczyk basically did nothing more than bring into play the unease at an increasing “gigantism of the festival” (Yearbook 1988) that has been simmering amongst Berlinale critics for 30 years to insinuate that the signatories wanted to “deliver a damning indictment of the Kosslick era”. The man himself could only react laconically to the persistent hostility: “Well, it’s quite baffling, really […]. It was initially […] aimed at the process but then it attacked me […]. I have long been hoping for specific proposals about what we should do. But apart from the suggestion that we should make the Berlinale smaller, nothing has been forthcoming so far” (in an interview with Deutschlandfunk Kultur, February 15, 2018).

The festival and the city – Berlin, February 16, 2018

The Diversity of the Film/World

To make the Berlinale smaller, the call for a stronger curatorial hand – demands that have become as intrinsic to the festival as the cold weather. In light of the journalistic mudslinging in the run-up to the 2018 Berlinale, the impression might have arisen that Dieter Kosslick would be handing over a desolate and meaningless event to his successor in 2019. That this was not the case was proven by the festival itself, its programme and the journalistic debate arising in its wake. It became clear that the Berlinale is alive and kicking: its uniqueness clearly stood out in 2018.

Rather than exposing an untenable situation requiring urgent revolution, critics like Hannah Pilarczyk simply held an opinion which differed from others. And it was an opinion, as things turned out, that was not shared by the majority. “The tangled undergrowth, the profusion – that is the urban jungle, that is Berlin. It is what differentiates the Berlinale from the hysterical clarity of the small towns of Cannes and Venice […]. The critics […] fail to grasp the Berlinale because they have already failed to grasp Berlin. One should not accommodate them by pruning this film festival into something that complies with an authoritarian small-town character and its fantasies of control,” wrote Jens Jessen in Zeit Online on February 14, 2018. You only needed to take an early morning stroll across Potsdamer Platz and observe the slowly awakening bustle of journalists, industry visitors, audiences, selfie hunters and tourists to comprehend the special quality and atmosphere of the festival.

It was never a goal of the festival to court hermetically sealed specialist discourses. At its centre stood diversity and an enthusiastic audience who packed the cinemas once again in 2018. “Does it not demonstrate cinephile self-aggrandisement to believe that the audience requires a strong guiding hand? Instead, one should have the confidence that, in this complex world, people are able to navigate their way through a substantial programme brochure and allow it to inspire them,” argued Wenke Husmann in Zeit Online (February 15, 2018).

A bath in the crowd: Joaquin Phoenix at the premiere of Don’t Worrry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Her plea for diversity found prominent support: “I usually hate film festivals. Last night, Gus [Van Sant] was doing the Berlin Talents and I went along to watch and saw all these young filmmakers that are curious about the process and hearing Gus speak, I had a real appreciation for a film festival,” said Joaquin Phoenix, in Berlin for the premiere of Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worrry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, about his first positive festival experience (deadline, February 21, 2018).

As in previous years, the days of the festival celebrated the opportunity provided by almost 400 films to travel round the world, experience the most diverse milieus, ways of life, opinions and attitudes, and to put one’s own preconceptions and prejudices to the test. “The eyes of many Berlinale viewers are shining when the credits roll and they ponder the films in the Panorama, Forum or Generation sections on which they have fruitfully lavished their time in recalibrating their own world view,” wrote Robert Ide (Der Tagespiegel, February 26, 2018). The 2018 Competition was representative of the immense diversity of the entire festival. Film critic Katja Nicodemus admitted: “I have never experienced anything like it, so many different aesthetics and crazy film ideas” (NDR Online, February 22, 2018).

For the very first time in its history, the Berlinale opened with an animated film: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs was not only a curatorial stroke of luck, bringing the necessary star power to the festival’s first Red Carpet, but also a “parable of a world filled with fascist ideas of purity and exclusion” (Verena Lueken, FAZ, February 16, 2018) and hence a paradigm for the festival’s concept of diversity.

At the premiere of Bixa Travesty (Tranny Fag): director Kiko Goifman, Panorama section head Paz Lázaro, director Claudia Priscilla and protagonist Linn da Quebrada

#MeToo and Diversity

In mid-October 2017, the MeToo hashtag dominated social networks. It was established in the wake of the heated debates on gender relations in the film industry triggered by the scandal surrounding producer Harvey Weinstein. Several female actors have accused Weinstein of sexual assault, up to and including rape. The issue had wide repercussions, including in Germany, and became a dominant topic at the 2018 Berlinale where Dieter Kosslick put #MeToo in a wider context and focused on power relations in general. Such discussions are “also a bit in the DNA of the Berlinale” (in an interview with Deutschlandfunk Kultur, February 15, 2018) because this issue, too, is ultimately about diversity. The festival’s commitment was accordingly recognised by the press: “Where else can cinema-goers find such a wide range of queer, international and political movies without working as an industry insider? Certainly not Cannes nor Venice, both of which remain privy only to those with the correct pass […]. Much like Berlin itself, the Berlinale prizes inclusivity above all else, and in this tumultuous era, it’s hard to imagine anything more important than that” (David Opie, EXBERLINER, 09 February 2018).

The last days of eastern Aleppo’s siege: : Milad Amin’s Ard al mahshar (Land of Doom) from Forum Expanded

The Obstructed View

With #MeToo, the film world turned its attention to its own structures, and in view of the current global political situation, the 2018 festival also became a question of identity. The image of a world out of joint already present in previous years had only sharpened and the Berlinale, which began in 1951 as a “showcase of the free world”, had to ask itself whether this free world even still existed. The so-called “leader of the free world”, a buffoonish US billionaire now unexpectedly a year into office, had still not forsaken his fantasy of a concrete wall between the USA and Mexico, had introduced protective tariffs, fired his foreign minister by Twitter and was himself accused of sexual assault. A continuing manifestation of this chaos was bomb-flattened Syria. The (proxy) wars between Russia and the USA, the interests of Turkey, the Kurds, Bashar al-Assad, the dystopian ideals of Islamic State, etcetera, were being fought on the backs of a fleeing or dying civilian population. Most of the world closed its eyes to the mass murder taking place.

It was therefore all the more important that a trend from previous years continued in the 2018 programme: films again challenged the act of forgetting and insisted on holding the past to account, and this took place across all sections. As Christoph Terhechte, head of Forum, summarised in an interview: “Addressing the past is what preoccupies filmmakers most at the moment. Especially because the view of the future is so obstructed worldwide. It is very hard to imagine what our civilisation will look like in 20 or 50 years time. To find answers to this question requires taking recourse to the past because it contains the reasons for the current situation. That is the prerequisite for future utopias.”

Two films, both using material originally shot in the 1980s: Unas preguntas (One or Two Questions) by Kristina Konrad and Waldheims Walzer (The Waldheim Waltz) by Ruth Beckermann

Nationalism Then as Now

It was striking how frequently the focus was trained on the devastation caused by dictatorial regimes. In his Competition entry Ang Panahon ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil), Lav Diaz returned to the darkest hours of the Marcos regime in the Philippines. Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar’s The Silence of Others in Panorama depicted the fight against the state-sanctioned forgetting of the Franco regime in Spain. An amnesty law issued after the military dictatorship in Uruguay was at the centre of Unas Preguntas (One or Two Questions) by Kristina Konrad in Forum. Konrad drew on material she shot in the 1980s to show how active democracy worked then and should work today. In a similar way, Ruth Beckermann edited together footage she also shot in the 1980s. In Waldheims Walzer (The Waldheim Waltz) she followed the – successful – 1986 election campaign of former UN Ambassador Kurt Waldheim as he ran for the office of Austrian Federal President. At that time, Waldheim had consigned his Nazi past to oblivion and thus became a symbol for an entire nation which perceived itself as a victim of the Nazi regime rather than its accomplice. Waldheims Walzer insisted, and persisted, in scrutinising and refusing to forget – and for this the film was rewarded with the Glashütte Original – Documentary Award. Beckermann’s film also had a burning topicality as the shift to the right and the resurgence of nation states was in evidence everywhere in our supposedly globalised world.

That certain milieus or individuals have long since bid farewell to the idea of democracy was reflected in multifaceted ways in the 2018 programme. In Až přijde válka (When the War Comes) in Panorama, Jan Gebert documented the preparations made by a paramilitary group in Slovakia for the self-heralded clash of civilisations. The most shocking aspect of this was the commonplace way in which paramilitary posturing was integrated into people’s everyday lives. The catastrophe to which such ways of thinking can lead was made tangible by Erik Poppe in the Competition. With Utøya 22. juli (U – July 22) he delivered the audience back to the year 2011 and the warzone of a war without borders, to the mass murder committed by the self-proclaimed defender of the Western world Anders Breivik who, unwilling to wait any longer for the clash of civilisations to begin, transformed the Social Democrat Party’s youth camp into the scene of a massacre.

War games: Až přijde válka (When the War Comes) by Jan Gebert

Revolution of the Senses

Beyond its topic, Utøya 22. juli also impressively tackled the prerequisite of any form of politics: perception. With a running time of 90 minutes, the film’s length corresponded to that of the 2011 massacre itself. Poppe eschewed cuts and hence the audience experienced the flight and dying of the Norwegian teenagers in an, at times, agonising tour-de-force of a single take. Allowing the events to play out in real time made the suffering and fear tangible in a much stronger way than any conventional documentary could hope to achieve. Just how strongly form is connected to political implications was also demonstrated by Nesrine Khodr’s installation Extended Sea in the Forum Expanded exhibition. Here, once again, a single, and in this case, fixed shot: for 705 minutes almost nothing happens. Anyone who could spare over eleven hours – and particularly in the context of a film festival where the limited nature of time and the imperative to accumulate the greatest possible number of viewed films dictate the daily schedule – to devote their full attention to a single work has obviously left behind the premises of turbo-capitalism and can also perceive the social world in an entirely new way.

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Extended Sea by Nesrine Khodr

Extended Sea found its counterpart in Panorama where Profile offered a wonderful reflection on the state of perception in the digital age. Timur Bekmambetov told the story of a British journalist who allows herself to be recruited by IS via Skype in order to write an article about it. For him, a mere laptop screen was sufficient cinematic space, where the ways in which perception becomes hysterical and incredibly accelerated can be experienced, as can the abstruse manner in which the private and professional, life and death, are pieced together in hard cuts. “From the point of view of a normal resident of audiovisual culture, film festivals are only as good as they are representatives, engines and reflections of general image culture” wrote Georg Seeßlen in Freitag (07/2018 edition) – and the 2018 programme had no reason to shy away from this demand.

A Farewell and Three Welcomes

In the summer of 2017, Panorama saw a significant change in personnel. After 25 years, Wieland Speck passed the leadership baton to Paz Lázaro who curated the programme for the 68th Berlinale together with Michael Stütz and Andreas Struck. All three had worked for Panorama for a long time already and they continued to focus on key topics such as LGBT cinema. At the same time, their very own distinctive styles became clearly visible in a focused and compact programme.

And it was also an end of an era at the European Film Market: after 30 years the grande dame of the film world, Beki Probst, was bid farewell with a Berlinale Camera. As director and then president, she had made the market an incomparable success story. “I began with three colleagues and a handful of films,” she recalled in the Tagesanzeiger (February 15, 2018). In 2018, with 10,000 participants from 112 countries and 661 films screened, the EFM set new records.

At the Award Ceremony: The team of Touch Me Not with the Golden Bear

“Sexperiments”

The 2018 festival reserved its biggest surprise for the Award Ceremony. Instead of awarding one of the tipped favourites in the Competition, Jury President Tom Tykwer and his fellow jurors honoured a “small”, semi-documentary film experience from Romania which hardly anyone had on their radar: Touch Me Not by Adina Pintilie took home both the GWFF Best First Feature Award and the Golden Bear. Its candid treatment of naked bodies, sexuality and intimacy had already caused a stir at its premiere two days earlier. Some critics left the screening in a huff, lurid headlines blazed for the next few days: “Gold for the Nude Shocker” (Berliner Morgenpost), “Sexperimental Film ‘Touch Me Not’ Unsettles Berlinale Audiences” (Rolling Stone), “Audience Members Walk Out Due to Excessive Sex Scenes” (Die Welt).

In a time of an omnipresent digital porn economy, Pintilie had struck a nerve. The film investigates the fundamentals of what is termed “intimacy”, what defines it and how it is experienced. In view of the heterogeneous bodies and personalities it portrays – Pintilie’s protagonists are all psychologically or physically peculiar in their own way – rather than the nudity in the film, it is the normativity of the “beautiful” bodies which generally prevail on our cinema screens which seems monstrous. Pintilie’s film discovers beauty in what is all too often excluded and marginalised and in the #MeToo era it was another powerfully urgent plea for true diversity. Reactions to the Golden Bear winner were heated and divergent. Peter Bradshaw from the Guardian took the jury’s decision as an opportunity to make a personal reckoning of the festival as a whole: “Victory for Adina Pintilie’s humourless and clumsy documentary essay underscores Berlin’s status as a festival that promotes the dull and valueless” (February 25, 2018). Tobias Kniebe, in contrast, wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “And a film that succeeds in completely rewiring a few synapses in the brains of its viewers – does that not deserve all the Bears going?” (February 25, 2018).

Alonso Ruizpalacios and Manuel Alcalá celebrating the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay

The passion of the debate unleashed by Touch Me Not also demonstrated the exceptional quality in the 2018 Competition in which many films deserved a prize. Above all, the German critics were disappointed that the four strong German entries – Christian Petzold’s Transit, Emily Atef’s 3 Tage in Quiberon (3 Days in Quiberon), Philip Gröning’s Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot (My Brother’s Name is Robert and He is an Idiot) and Thomas Stuber’s In den Gängen (In the Aisles) – went home empty-handed. Gunnar Decker succinctly summed up the general mood in Neues Deutschland on February 26, 2018: “This year’s competition [was] one of the strongest in recent years. Above all, it saw a return of strong German films which surprised with very different distinctive styles.”

The other awards revealed how multifaceted and diverse the 2018 Competition was: Małgorzata Szumowska won the Grand Jury Prize with her satire on contemporary Poland, Twarz (Mug); Wes Anderson secured consideration for his animated film Isle of Dogs with the award for Best Director. The quiet, intimate Paraguayan drama Las herederas (The Heiresses) by Marcelo Martinessi won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize and the Silver Bear for Best Actress for Ana Brun.

Anthony Bajon with the Silver Bear for Best Actor

For his role as the drug-addicted young drifter in Cédric Kahn’s La prière (The Prayer), young French performer Anthony Bajon won the Silver Bear for Best Actor. The prize for Best Screenplay went to Mexico for Manuel Alcalá and Alonso Ruizpalacios’ (who also directed the film Museo (Museum)) retelling of the audacious 1985 break-in at the Mexican National Museum. The Russian Elena Okopnaya was honoured for her Outstanding Artistic Contribution (Costume and Production Design) in Alexey German Jr.’s portrait of the artist Dovlatov.

And so the 68th Berlinale climaxed in an Award Ceremony which once again reflected the great diversity of the festival. As Hanns-Georg Rodek summed up: “The Berlin Film Festival is returning to its roots. It’s once again a political festival of free thinking that ventures to take more risks than Venice or Cannes. ‘Touch Me Not’ is a signal to the other festivals that this Berlinale is ready to change. And a signal to all filmmakers that they are looking to take risks” (Die Welt, February 25, 2018). Amongst the critics, anticipation for next year and the 69th Berlinale won out in the end. Tim Caspar Böhme, for example, wrote: “This year could […] turn out to be the prelude for an increased understanding of the Berlinale as an experimental laboratory for films. Which would be no bad thing” (Die Tageszeitung, February 25, 2018). The alleged sense of deep crisis proclaimed by Der Spiegel in late November had, by the end of February, ultimately been transformed into a hopeful spirit of optimism.

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@Berlinale (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

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(Source: Berlinale.de)

2018 Berlinale Festival Posters

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Berlinale Belongs to the Bears

 

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When the 68th Berlin International Film Festival takes place from February 15 – 25, 2018, Berlin will once again belong to the bears.

 

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Festival Director Dieter Kosslick

“It’s that time of year again: The bears are out and about! On this year’s posters they’ll be popping up at well-known Berlin landmarks to get us in the mood for terrific festival days,” comments Festival Director Dieter Kosslick.

 

The poster series, featuring six different scenes, was again designed by the Swiss agency Velvet. The posters will go up city-wide and be available for purchase at the Berlinale Online Shop starting on January 22.

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(Source:Berlin Press Office)

 

Berlin announces first In Competition films for 68th Berlinale

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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It’s getting hot in here.

Here comes the 2018 Berlinale! After last year’s splendid close, this year’s 68th Berlin International Film Festival is taking shape and you don’t want to miss it.

The first ten films have been selected for the Competition and the Berlinale Special.

Alongside the previously announced opening film, Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson, seven productions and co-productions from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Serbia, the Russian Federation, and the USA have been invited to take part in the Competition.

 

So far two productions have been invited to participate in the Berlinale Special. As part of the Official Program, it screens recent works by contemporary filmmakers, as well as documentaries and works with extraordinary formats.

Competition

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Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

USA

By Gus Van Sant (Milk, Promised Land)

With Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Udo Kier

International premiere

 

Dovlatov

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Russian Federation / Poland / Serbia

By Alexey German Jr. (Paper Soldier, Under Electric Clouds)

With Milan Maric, Danila Kozlovsky, Helena Sujecka, Artur Beschastny, Elena Lyadova

World premiere

 

Eva

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France

By Benoit Jacquot (Three Hearts, Diary of a Chambermaid)

With Isabelle Huppert, Gaspard Ulliel, Julia Roy, Richard Berry

World premiere

 

Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine)

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Italy / Germany / Switzerland
By Laura Bispuri (Sworn Virgin)
With Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Udo Kier
World premiere

 

In den Gängen (In the Aisles)

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Germany

By Thomas Stuber (Teenage Angst, A Heavy Heart)

With Franz Rogowski, Sandra Hüller, Peter Kurth

World premiere

 

Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot

Germany

By Philip Gröning (Into Great Silence, The Police Officer’s Wife)

With Josef Mattes, Julia Zange, Urs Jucker, Stefan Konarske, Zita Aretz, Karolina Porcari, Vitus Zeplichal

World premiere

 

Twarz (Mug)

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Poland

By Małgorzata Szumowska (In the Name of, Body)

With Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Małgorzata Gorol, Roman Gancarczyk, Dariusz Chojnacki, Robert Talarczyk, Anna Tomaszewska, Martyna Krzysztofik

World premiere

Berlinale Special Gala

The Bookshop

Spain / United Kingdom / Germany

By Isabel Coixet (Things I Never Told You, My Life Without Me, The Secret Life of Words)

With Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson

German premiere

 

Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Revolution)

Germany

By Lars Kraume (The People vs. Fritz Bauer)

With Leonard Scheicher, Tom Gramenz, Lena Klenke, Jonas Dassler, Florian Lukas, Jördis Triebel, Michael Gwisdek, Ronald Zehrfeld, Burghart Klaußner

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(Source: Berlin Press Office)

World premiere

Berlinale Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary with L’Oréal Paris

Berlinale_Proud

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 

In 2018, the Berlin International Film Festival will be supported by the French cosmetics brand L’Oréal Paris for the 20th year in succession.

Listen to Festival Director Dieter Kosslick:

 

Berlinale-“No make-up, no movies – true to this motto, our partnership with L’Oréal Paris is especially close to our hearts. We are grateful and proud to be able to celebrate this 20th anniversary with our principal partner L’Oréal Paris at the 68th Berlinale. To this day, its passionate engagement and valuable support has given the festival, its guests, and the public many magnificent moments,” says Festival Director Dieter Kosslick.

 

With its professional make-up team, the Berlinale’s official cosmetics specialist has assisted the stars in finding the perfect look for the Red Carpet since 1999.

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Glimmering Gong Li walks the Berlinale Red Carpet outside the Berlinale Palast Pottsdam Theater. Make up by L’Oreal.

And the fact that the world of film is closely related to the world of beauty can be seen in the glamorous Red Carpet appearances of film icons and brand ambassadors such as Julianne Moore, Jane Fonda, Andie MacDowell, Gong Li and Iris Berben.

 

 

 

L’Oréal Paris also offers a very special service for festival-goers. Beauty experts will advise visitors and give them the latest “Berlinale look”, free of charge, at the L’Oréal Paris Make-up-Studio at Potsdamer Platz.

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(Source: Press release provided by Berlin Press Office)

 

 

Berlinale Classics 2018 Presents Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) by E.A. Dupont

Posted by Larry Gleeson

World Premiere of the Digitally Restored Version

As part of the Berlinale Classics program, the 68th Berlin International Film Festival will be presenting Ewald André Dupont’s silent Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law, Germany, 1923) as a special screening with live music. The film, digitally restored under the auspices of the Deutsche Kinemathek, and accompanied by new music by French composer Philippe Schoeller, will have its world premiere on February 16, 2018 in the Friedrichstadt-Palast.

 

Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) is an important piece of German-Jewish cinematic history; it contrasts the closed world of an Eastern European shtetl with the liberal mores of 1860s Vienna, and tackles the issue of the assimilation of Jews in 19th century Europe.

 

The Deutsche Kinemathek undertook the first efforts at reconstructing the film in 1984, trying to get as close to the original version as possible, as far as the sources available at the time allowed. When the original censor’s certificate was later uncovered, containing the text of the title cards, it would eventually provide the impetus for renewed research efforts world-wide and finally for a new, digital restoration.

 

“With its authentic set design and an excellent ensemble of actors, all captured magnificently by cinematographer Theodor Sparkuhl, The Ancient Law is an outstanding example of the creativity of Jewish filmmakers in 1920s Germany”, says Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective section and artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.

 

The new music by Philippe Schoeller was commissioned by the broadcasters ZDF/ARTE. Schoeller gets to the heart of the film with meticulously composed ensemble music that employs all the techniques of a modern soundtrack. It consciously establishes some historical distance to the film itself and uses a tapestry of translucid sounds to emphasise the visual excellence of the silent classic. The composition will be performed by the Orchester Jakobsplatz München, with Daniel Grossmann at the podium. The orchestra, founded in 2005, focuses on the work of Jewish composers, as well as 20th and 21st century music, making an important contribution to contemporary German-Jewish culture. Its most recent guest appearance at the Berlinale was in 2013.

 

The new restoration drew upon nitrate prints in five different languages found in archives in Europe and the US. The text of the original German title cards was long thought lost. It was not until the censor’s certificate listing the intertitles was unearthed that the restoration team from the Deutsche Kinemathek could accurately reconstruct them, as well as correcting and finalising the editing. The colour concept was based primarily on two found prints nearly identical in their colourisation. So this is the first time that a version corresponding to the 1920s German theatrical release will be shown, both in its original length, and with the colourisation digitally restored.

 

The Berlinale screening marks the start of the film’s tour to several cities, mainly in Eastern Europe, that were once hubs of Jewish life, including Vilnius, Budapest, Warsaw, and Vienna. It will also be shown at the Silent Film Festival in San Francisco.

 

The restored version will debut on television on February 19, 2018 on the ARTE channel. Simultaneously, absolut MEDIEN will release a DVD as part of its ARTE EDITION series, containing a wealth of bonus material on the restoration process.

 

The Deutsche Kinemathek’s digital restoration of Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) was made possible through the personal commitment of professor Cynthia Walk (University of California, San Diego), and generous support from the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts.

 

The world premiere of the digitally restored version in Berlin is a cooperative venture between the Berlin International Film Festival, the Deutsche Kinemathek, and public broadcaster ZDF in cooperation with ARTE.

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(Berlin Press Office)

Berlinale Spotlight: Films Travel to Asia

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Just when you think it can’t get any better, they go and do something like this!

The Berlinale has had a global presence with specially curated film programs for many years now. The Berlinale Spotlight extends the festival and makes its activities visible throughout the year.

 

Berlinale-Berlinale Spotlight gives us the opportunity to make our work concrete and tangible to audiences even beyond the festival. The films on the screen exemplify what makes the Berlinale sections so distinctive and the Berlinale unique in its complexity,” says Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick.

 

The Berlinale’s long-standing and successful collaboration with the Goethe Institutes in Kolkata and Hong Kong will continue in the autumn and winter of 2017. A total of six short film programmes are to be presented with works from the Berlinale Shorts, Generation, Perspektive Deutsches Kino and Panorama sections, as well as the full-length fiction film Ein Weg (Paths) by Chris Miera (Perspektive Deutsches Kino 2017). The short film programmes have been put together by Maike Mia Höhne, curator of the Berlinale Shorts section.

 

2015_0004_img_175xvar“The films reflect the great diversity of the short format: bold, playful, political, narrative. The short film is an essential sector of the film industry, but also of storytelling and culture. In its capacity as such, it will travel around the world,” says Maike Mia Höhne.

 

The Berlinale Spotlight programmes in East Asia will be shown at the Cine Moko in Hong Kong on October 18 and 25, 2017; at the Cinematheque Passion in Macau on October 15 and 20, 2017; at the Goethe-Institut in Shanghai, China on October 18 and 20, 2017; and at the Goethe-Institut Beijing, China on November 18 and 19, 2017.

 

Berlinale Spotlight has been invited to India for the Kalpanirjhar International Short Fiction Film Festival from December 1 to 5, 2017; DIALOGUES: Calcutta International LGBT Film & Video Festival from November 23 to 26, 2017; and the TENT Little Cinema International Festival in December 2017. All festival screenings will be held at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata.

 

Berlinale Spotlight films:

 

Altas Cidades de Ossadas (High Cities of Bone), directed by: João Salaviza (Portugal), 19 min.

Avant l’envol (Before the Flight), directed by: Laurence Bonvin (Switzerland), 20 min.

Call of Cuteness, directed by: Brenda Lien (Germany), 4 min.
Centauro (Centaur), directed by: Nicolás Suárez (Argentina), 14 min. – Honourable Mention 2017

Cidade Pequena (Small Town), directed by: Diogo Costa Amarante (Portugal), 19 min. – Golden Bear for Best Short Film 2017

Ensueño en la Pradera (Reverie in the Meadow), directed by: Esteban Arrangoiz Julien (Mexico), 17 min. – Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film) 2017

Estás vendo coisas (You are seeing things), directed by: Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca (Brazil), 18 min.

Everything, directed by: David OReilly (USA / Ireland), 11 min.

Final Stage, directed by: Nicolaas Schmidt (Germany), 27 min. – Perspektive Deutsches Kino 2017

Fuera de Temporada (Out of Season), directed by: Sabrina Campos (Argentina), 23 min.

Hiwa, directed by: Jacqueline Lentzou (Greece), 11 min.

keep that dream burning, directed by: Rainer Kohlberger (Austria/ Germany), 8 min.

Kometen (The Comet), directed by: Victor Lindgren (Sweden), 11 min.

La prima sueca (Swedish Cousin), directed by: Inés María Barrionuevo, Agustina San Martín (Argentina), 20 min. – Generation 2017

Le film de l’été (The Summer Movie), directed by: Emmanuel Marre (France / Belgium), 30 min.

Martin Pleure (Martin Cries), directed by: Jonathan Vinel (France), 16 min.

Min Homosyster (My Gay Sister), directed by: Lia Hietala (Sweden / Norway), 15 min. – Generation 2017, TEDDY Award 2017

Oh Brother Octopus, directed by: Florian Kunert (Germany), 27 min.

Os Humores Artificiais (The Artificial Humors), directed by: Gabriel Abrantes (Portugal), 30 min. – Berlin Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards 2017

Street of Death, directed by: Karam Ghossein (Lebanon / Germany), 22 min. – Audi Short Film Award 2017

The Boy from H2, directed by: Helen Yanovsky (Israel / Palestine), 21 min.

The Crying Conch, directed by: Vincent Toi (Canada), 20 min.

The Rabbit Hunt, directed by: Patrick Bresnan (USA / Hungary 2017), 12 min.

Vênus – Filó a fadinha lésbica (Filly the Lesbian Little Fairy), directed by: Sávio Leite (Brazil), 6 min. – Panorama 2017

 

As well as the full-length fiction film:

Ein Weg (Paths), directed by: Chris Miera (Germany), 107 min. – Perspektive Deutsches Kino 2017

 

Berlinale_Proud

(Source: Press release from Berlinale Press Office)

 

Summer Berlinale at the Radio Eins Open-Air Cinema in Friedrichshain

Posted by Larry Gleeson

From July 20 to 23, 2017, film fans will have another opportunity to see audience favorites and winning films from the Berlinale Competition, Panorama, Forum and Generation sections: under the stars and before their German cinema releases.

Thursday, July 20, 9.30 pm
On Body and Soul, director: Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary 2017, 116 min, Hungarian with German subtitles, Competition (Winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film).
Director Ildikó Enyedi will be present, the film will be introduced by Anke Leweke and Knut Elstermann.
More about the film: On Body and Soul

Friday, July 21, 9.30 pm
God’s Own Country, director: Francis Lee, UK 2017, 104 min, English with German subtitles, Panorama.
Presented by Michael Stütz, Programme Manager of Panorama.
More about the film: God’s Own Country

Saturday, July 22, 9.30 pm
Casting, director: Nicolas Wackerbarth, Germany 2017, 91 min, German, Forum.
Director Nicolas Wackerbarth will be present, the film will be presented by Christoph Terhechte, Section Head of Forum.
More about the film: Casting

Sunday, July 23, 9.30 pm
Weirdos, director: Bruce McDonald, Canada 2016, 84 min, English original version, Generation.
Presented by Maryanne Redpath, Section Head of Generation.

Further information at: www.freiluftkino-berlin.de

Logo-Berlinale-Facebook

(Source: Berlinale press office)

 

2017 Berlin Film Festival Retrospective

Posted by Larry Gleeson

I was proud to be an American abroad.


https://www.berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/2017/06_streaming_2017/Videos.html#item=45501

Diego Luna: I’m here to investigate how to tear down walls. Apparently there are many experts here. And when I bring that information back to Mexico…
Maggie Gyllenhaal: And to America.

Of course we must begin with the Wall. Fifty-six years after Berlin was split into two by a wall, a Mexican actor and director and a US actor – both members of the International Jury – sat together at the first Press Conference of the 2017 festival and drew inspiration from a peaceful revolution to learn how barriers and borders can be overcome. And not in the metaphorical sense.

On January 20, 2017, a shocking event played out in Washington D.C., one which appeared to many observers to be a nightmare from which they could no longer awake: Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America. And one of his election promises was the vow to build a wall between “his” country and Mexico to put an irrevocable halt to the flow of migrants from south to north. In the previous year, the billionaire had waged his election campaign against his opponent Hillary Clinton chiefly with half-truths, falsehoods and audacious lies, causing contemporary politics to be labelled ”post-factual”. The traditionally paranoid tendencies in American politics received an unprecedented boost. Thirty years after Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”, the global political situation scaled new heights of unreality to shocking effect. Journalists were excluded as the enemy whenever the new strong man in the White House deigned to face inconvenient questions.

And although Festival Director Dieter Kosslick already made it clear at the 67th Berlinale’s Program Press Conference that Trump should be deliberately omitted because the billionaire chiefly had the media circus surrounding him to thank for his success, it is still Trump we must begin with to make clear the “political” atmosphere in which the 2017 program unfolded.

Three of the 2017 Competition films: Viceroy’s HouseFélicitéEl Bar

The End of Utopias

The great ideologies had already been done for, communism and capitalism had both been discovered to be dead-ends. What remained was a reactionary (ultra) nationalism with powerful leading characters who created a lot of noise in the media: Trump in the US, Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, the list goes on. Society’s unifying themes had unravelled and vested interests governed and dominated – and the program of the 67th Berlinale reacted accordingly. “A spectre is haunting us – and not just in Europe. We have confusion following the collapse of the great utopian dreams and disenchantment with globalization. […] Rarely has the Berlinale program more forcefully captured the current political situation in images”, wrote Dieter Kosslick in his foreword to the program. A way out of this confusion was offered by a look back and an analysis of the historical developments which led to this current impasse.

In the Competition with Viceroy’s House, Gurinder Chadha traced the colonialism which was the original driving force behind both capitalism and globalization. This period piece is set in 1947, the year in which the territory of British India was arbitrarily partitioned into India and Pakistan and the conflicts which burden both countries to this day were irrevocably set in place. A present-day perspective on the ravages of colonialism was presented by Alain Gomis’ Félicité, in which the director follows his titular heroine on her daily struggle for survival in Kinshasa. The catastrophic consequences of the colonial past may not be present as an explicit indictment in this film but they nevertheless resonate in every frame. In his chamber piece El Bar (The Bar), Álex de la Iglesia delivered an experimental set-up that reflects the growing fear in Europe of falling victim to a random and sudden act of violence: a customer of a Madrid bar is shot dead upon exiting, without cause or provocation – a scenario which, due to the many random acts of violence that haunted the “peaceful” European homeland in 2016, captures with great precision the feelings of insecurity these acts left behind. Particularly in Berlin, the memory of December 19, 2016, when a perpetrator deliberately crashed an articulated lorry into the Christmas Market on Breitscheidplatz, was still raw.

Director Ceylan Özgün Özçelik on Kaygı

Interventions

https://www.berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/2017/01_jahresblatt_2017/01_jahresblatt_7.html

The spirit of a post-utopian era and its excesses was not only tangible in the Competition but throughout the festival. Erdogan’s “purging” of the political, civilian and military apparatus found its reaction in the Panorama film Kaygı(Inflame), in which director Ceylan Özgün Özçelik tells the story of a Turkish journalist who is censored and suppressed and finally descends into paranoia. A highly explosive subject matter – for even during the Festival, on February 14, the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel was arrested in Turkey. The power-crazed fantasies of another illustrious politician, Russian president Vladimir Putin, were considered in the Berlinale Special with The Trial – The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov by Askold Kurov which investigates the show trial of the Ukrainian film director and Maidan-activist who protested against the internationally unacceptable annexation of Crimea by Russia. Romanian filmmakers deployed placards on the Red Carpet to draw attention to the increasingly draconian censorship and the escalating corruption in their homeland. As he explained in an interview with Variety, Dieter Kosslick was relaxed about this appropriation: “‘Everyone has been using our red carpet as a kind of Hyde Park Corner, and I’m happy with this,’ he said, referring to the area in London where speakers share their political views with the crowd. ‘We want to be on the right side of the world,’ he said” (Leo Barraclough, February 18, 2017).

Such interventions were numerous and always had their finger on the pulse of the age. For example, the 2017 edition of the NATIVe – A Journey into Indigenous Cinema special presentation made its focal point the Arctic, a place which, according to climate researchers, will play a decisive role over the coming decades in the survival of humanity and the planet (it seems almost superfluous to mention President Trump’s promise to his supporters that, following his election, he would rescind all the hard-fought climate protection goals adopted by his predecessor Barack Obama).

The awarding of the first Glashütte Original Documentary Award: Producer Palmyre Badinier, protagonist Wadee Hanani and director Raed Andoni

A New Award

In a highly-politicised region, for decades the political football of increasingly opaque claims to power and sensitivities, Raed Adoni created his film Istiyad Ashbah (Ghost Hunting) which screened in the Panorama. In Ramallah the director enabled the Palestinian ex-inmates of an Israeli interrogation centre to replay their experiences there and, in doing so, traced their trauma and his own life story. The fictional framework of this re-enactment brings the very real wounds of the past to the surface. Adoni was recognised for his work with the Glashütte Original Documentary Award – the inauguration of the first prize in the history of the Berlinale to be explicitly devoted to the documentary form.

Aesthetics and the Political

At the beginning of the festival, Dutch director and President of the International Jury Paul Verhoeven declared he would not reward any film simply for having a political content. Cinematic art, the aesthetics, would be the deciding factor. In doing so he was merely expressing what has long been a programming principle for the Berlinale. A textbook example of this was delivered by Aki Kaurismäki in the Competition. InToivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope), the director tells of an encounter between a Syrian refugee and a Finnish travelling salesman. The rigorously composed, stoical shots stage the film’s (political) stance in Kaurismäki’s very own humorously melancholic style. We desperately need immigration, said the director at the film’s Press Conference, “because our blood is getting thick”.

The nexus of aesthetics and the political demanded by Verhoeven extended throughout the programme. In the ForumEl mar la mar focused on the very stretch of the Sonoran Desert which migrants have to cross in their desperate journeys north – the place where Trump will lay the foundations for his wall. Filmmakers Joshua Bonnetta and J P Sniadecki eschew the post-factual imperative to place emotionality above actuality and instead embark upon an archaeological journey and bear witness to the human dramas in the traces left behind in the landscape by the passing travellers. Avoiding an explicit political message, the film instead makes tangible the remorselessness of the landscape, of nature.

The search for archaeological traces was one of the strongest programming strands in the 67th Berlinale, a theme which permeated all the sections. In the Competition and sections alike an entire panoply of films was devoted to the past and the historical process. The current sorry state of “reality” did not happen overnight: there were signs, developments and early events, powers that developed unseen which have now risen to the surface. Many films took a step back and sought to find in yesterday the reasons for today.

No Intenso AgoraCasting JonBenet

An overview of the cinematographic eye expanded across the sections. And, as in previous years, the richness of the documentary form was compelling: No Intenso Agora (In the Intense Now) by João Moreira Salles in the Panorama traced the vibrancy of the Prague Spring as far as the revolutionary force of Paris in May 1968. A tightly knit film essay that permitted no causality and sometimes took an eccentric view of the genealogy of events. In his almost five-hour long Combat au bout de la nuit(Fighting Through the Night), Sylvain L’Espérance took Greece as the example for his exploration of the ongoing decline of the idea of Europe, an idea which suffered a further blow with the UK Brexit vote in the summer of 2016. With Casting JonBenet, Kitty Green put the process of uncovering the truth itself in the spotlight. Rather than furnishing the story of the still-unsolved murder of the six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey with further truths, she invited the people who lived in the area at the time of the murder to a casting session and observed the mechanics by which the truths about an event are first outlined and constructed. The documentaries in the Forum were notable for their long-term observations, taking in the rhythms of their subjects rather than adding redundant dramatisation to these lives. This was exemplified by Aus einem Jahr der Nichtereignisse (From a Year of Non-Events) by Carolin Renninger and René Frölke, which portrayed the life of a north German farmer.

Forum Expanded panel day on the archive in the silent green Kulturquartier.

History and stories were told whilst constantly ensuring the exposure of the methods of production and reflection upon them. Archive material often played a dominant role. In the Competition, Andres Veiel (re)constructed the work of Joseph Beuys almost exclusively from contemporaneous material (Beuys); the Forum Expanded devoted an entire day of panel discussions to the archive.

The Retrospective, in contrast, provided a change of perspective and, with its topic of Science Fiction film, dedicated itself to the future without losing sight of the present in the process: “We understand that, although Science Fiction tells a story set in the future, it actually uses this future to address questions and situations from the present”, explained section head Rainer Rother.

The Fictionality of Reality and the Reality of Fictions

In the war of images the borders between reality and fiction had become more porous than ever before. Politicians like Trump, Erdogan and Putin simply declared their assertions as reality and imposed their sovereignty of interpretation via all available media. The Berlinale program provided an important counterpoint to these fatal developments: “Nowhere else, neither in Cannes nor Venice, is the appetite for reality-based and reality-seeking images as great as here. For images that cleave less to the daily politics than to targeting the heart of the now, in slow films for frantic times” (Christiane Peitz, Der Tagesspiegel, February 20, 2017). The title of the 2017 Forum Expanded was also emblematic of this: “The Stars Down to Earth”. The works gave themselves to “the search for possibilities of an artistic way of dealing with a reality that is increasingly difficult to grasp”. The view is directed back down to earth, to the here and now and the condition of perceivable realities. Yet this was not about nostalgia for a “lost” factual era but instead the unnerving feeling that “reality”, which has always been in interplay with fiction, was being suffocated under the weight of false assertions.

Maike Mia Höhne took the same line with her selection for the 2017 Berlinale Shorts which, with its title of “Reframing the Image”, similarly interrogated the fundamentals of what we see and perceive. The relationship between “medial” and “factual” reality, between fiction and reality, is obviously not alien to the cinema. It lies at the heart of the medium itself, based as it is upon changing the actuality without losing it and creating stories out of the material of the visible world. Recognition, interpretation and, in the worst cases, lying – these are the techniques and questions that constitute film.

A lot of irony: the Press Conference on Toivon tuolla puolen

Poetry and Irony in the Competition

https://www.berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/2017/01_jahresblatt_2017/01_jahresblatt_7.html

Against this backdrop it is perhaps unsurprising that, on February 18, 2017, the Golden Bear was presented to a film which engaged intensively with the modulations and relationship between dream and reality – traditionally fertile ground for both film practice and theory. Testről és lélekről (On Body and Soul) by Ildikó Enyedi ostensibly tells a tender love story which contrasts the graceful ease of a dream with the – literally – bloody reality of a Hungarian slaughterhouse. Testről és lélekről was a worthy winner, lauded by critics and audiences alike. As Anke Westphal wrote in the Berliner Zeitung: “How these two people, both marked with tragedy by fate, gradually come closer together, at first in their nightly dreams when they meet as deer in a wintery forest, and then in their apparent real lives, counts among the most beautiful, tender and truthful experiences that cinema can create” (February 20, 2017). Poetry and humour dominated the 67th Berlinale Competition. And while Testről és lélekről excelled at poetry, doyen Aki Kaurismäki, who won the Silver Bear for Best Director with Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope), provided the requisite irony. And not just with his film: asked at the Press Conference for his opinion about the danger of the Islamisation of Europe, he first made the journalist repeat her question three times and then, with the deepest of deadpan, replied that no, he had no fears about the Icelandisation of Europe – even though that country sensationally made it as far as the quarter finals before being eliminated from the 2016 European Football Championship.

Happy winners: Festival Director Dieter Kosslick with Kim Minhee, Ildikó Enyedi and Jury President Paul Verhoeven.

The International Jury continued the trend of previous years by chiefly presenting awards to films not at the centre of global attention. Alain Gomis won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize with Félicité, a co-production between France, Senegal, Belgium, Germany and Lebanon. Polish director Agnieszka Holland won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for Pokot (Spoor). South Korean Kim Minhee took home the Silver Bear for Best Actress for her role in Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja (On the Beach at Night Alone) by Hong Sangsoo. The Chilean film Una mujer fantástica (A Fantastic Woman) by Sébastian Lelio won the award for Best Screenplay and Romanian editor Dana Bunescu (Ana, mon amour by Călin Peter Netzer) was visibly overcome as she was presented with the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution. This courage to give centre stage to the seemingly marginal was also honoured by the critics: “The Competition [assembled] art-house works, offering the kind of platform to small, powerful films which is unavailable to them during the rest of the year’s blockbuster-dominated film glut” (Christiane Peitz, Der Tagesspiegel, February 20, 2017).

Dieter Kosslick at the Award Ceremony of the Independent Juries

Diversity and Hope

The 2017 program was controversial and never played it safe. At times its immense diversity seemed to leave critics overwhelmed. Some commentators missed a clear unifying theme in the program. That this could be down to the fact that, as Andreas Busche wrote, the world itself had lost its unifying theme, was only infrequently acknowledged: “The eschewal of an official programming agenda benefits the films which, like all good art, must be measured against their own standards. And perhaps the social discourses accruing from the invisible connections between individual films are much more complex than a political slogan could ever be” (Der Tagesspiegel, February 8, 2017).

For years the Cold War and the balance of power between the USSR and the USA was the organizing principle which provided the world with clear meaning and an overriding narrative. The Berlin Wall became the ultimate symbol of this dichotomy. Where else but in Berlin should a Festival Director have hope in spite of the current tense situation? Thus Dieter Kosslick’s exhortation at the end of his speech at the prize-giving ceremony of the Independent Juries: “Don’t lose your courage, we will win.”

(Source: berlinale.de)

Berlinale Mourns the Loss of Franz Stadler

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Renowned cinema owner and curator Franz Stadler died on Sunday after a long illness.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 2.36.00 PM

For almost forty years Franz and Rosemarie Stadler ran the filmkunst 66, a multi-prize-winning arthouse cinema in Berlin Charlottenburg. In 1971 Franz Stadler took over the two-screen cinema in the Bleibtreustraße and before long the sophisticated program he put together established it as one of the most important institutions for independent cinema in Berlin. Stadler also initiated a number of film festivals and was awarded Germany’s Federal Cross of Merit for his services to cinema. In 2011, the Berlin International Film Festival honored Franz and Rosemarie Stadler with the Berlinale Camera.

*Featured Photo Credit: Jan Windszus @Berlinale 2010

(Source: www.berlinale.de)

HollywoodGlee sits down with the critically acclaimed Dream Boat director, Tristan Ferland Milewski


Tristan Ferland Milewski has directed numerous documentary portraits about top pop acts like Madonna, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson among others and was responsible for the script and direction of the documentary series MAKE LOVE – ONE CAN LEARN HOW TO MAKE LOVE (nominated for the German Television Prize 2017, a gebrueder beetz production). DREAM BOAT (also by gebrueder beetz filmproduktion) is his first feature-length documentary for theatrical release.

 

dreamboat_tristanWhat made you want to take a documentary approach to this story of a party cruise?

A cruise ship and 3000 men from 89 nations. My producer, Christian Beetz, and myself were in love with this idea from the start.

The boat is like a microcosm with its own codes, yet, in many ways, it mirrors society on a much grander scale. This is why, in the end, the questions and topics that the film addresses are not only relevant for gay men, but also for each and everyone one of us.

Ultimately, the film is a quest about longing to live and love as you are.

 

This film centers around a core group of men and you keep coming back to them. What was it that kept bringing you back to them as both protagonists and subject? What drew you to these particular protagonists?

I felt that for each of my protagonists this trip had great emotional significance.

For Dipankar from India, for example, it was his first time to be in an environment with only gay men. He was almost in a state of culture shock. Yet, it was an important step in his life towards being proud of who he is. After the film he decided to come out at his workplace and to his family and was fully accepted.

 

How did you find your protagonists for Dream Boat, as they all have such varied and interesting stories?

I went on this cruise one year before, where we already did some filming and where I already met two of my protagonists. There is also a closed facebook group where all future passengers and regular passengers can meet. Here, I got in contact with many guys and was able to tell everyone more about the ideas behind the film.

Of course, on this boat there are guests from oppressive countries or maybe those who have not outed themselves in their home countries, so making this film carried a large responsibility for me. It was important to be clear with my efforts and approachable all the time –  before, during and even after the actual shooting of film. In other words, during the entire process.
Additionally, I met all my protagonists before the trip, most of them in their home countries, to get to know them and their stories better and develop a true base of trust.

 

This film explores some deep emotions, specifically the struggle with gay men who go on cruises looking for love and relationship. What is it about cruise ships and the gay community that inspired you to tell these stories?

Naturally, in a city like Berlin, I can live quite freely as a gay man. But if you look at our world as it is, there’s still a lot of discrimination and threatening situations going on for gays and it’s getting worse. So as long as these repressive situations still exist, “islands” like this boat also need to exist so people can be who they are and be free.

What is also interesting is that the limit of time on the boat brings with it a lot of pressure and expectations.

Everything has to happen in this short time period, before you get kicked out into reality again. Time and space become abstract; we shot almost 24h a day. Everything is condensed so that, in the end, you are confronted with the real questions of life.

The film shows beautiful love stories, but also a certain loneliness which brings us to ask fundamental questions about our western civilization. In these times of selfies and self-optimization, we present ourselves on the market as a commodity in our search for love or acceptance. Yet, sometimes when we present this mere surface, we often receive emptiness in return.

 

This is a powerful film and you have been lucky enough to screen your work at the Berlin international film festival. How have you been able to master navigating the film festival world? Do you have any advice for other filmmakers who are having their first festival experiences?

Film is team work, therefore, it is a wonderful and very special moment to enjoy and celebrate together, as you go through such a deep journey. When you’re passionate about something, then other people become passionate about it too and this hopefully transfers to the audience. For me, it was such a big gift that the film was so well-received by a very mixed audience.

And most importantly by the real stars of the Dream Boat. Most of the protagonists were able to join the world premiere in Berlin. They are very happy with the film. We had really emotional screenings at the festival, full of love, tears and laughing.

 

http://www.critic.de/typo3conf/ext/critic_de/pi1/flash/player.swf