The 19th Annual Ojai Film Festival (OFF) is up and running. Last night at the enchanting Libbey Bowl in downtown Ojai, a free Community screening of Mel Brooks’ raucous and rollicking Young Frankenstein was the Opening Night Film. OFF President Jonathan Lambert jump started the evening with Opening Night remarks including a plug for Loving Vincent and OFF’s new environmentally-oriented films, “Focus Earth.”
Without further adieu Lambert brought forth the evening’s special guest, Hank Wynands. Wynands built the sets for Young Frankenstein and worked on several other of Mel Brooks’ films. Wynands shared some colorful inside jokes on the day-to-day operations on a Brooks film set and the impact budgeting has on a production.
Tomorrow is the first full day of OFF starting at 10:00 A.M. with the Student Filmmakers Program at the Ojai Art Center Theater. Stay tuned for more on this emerging film festival! Legendary Hollywood producer Peter Guber, Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, told the audience at a recent Toronto International Film Festival that “Ojai is the next Telluride.”
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!
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.
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
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.
When the 68th Berlin International Film Festival takes place from February 15 – 25, 2018, Berlin will once again belong to the bears.
“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.
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.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
By Gus Van Sant (Milk, Promised Land)
With Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Udo Kier
Russian Federation / Poland / Serbia
By Alexey German Jr. (Paper Soldier, Under Electric Clouds)
With Milan Maric, Danila Kozlovsky, Helena Sujecka, Artur Beschastny, Elena Lyadova
By Benoit Jacquot (Three Hearts, Diary of a Chambermaid)
With Isabelle Huppert, Gaspard Ulliel, Julia Roy, Richard Berry
Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine)
Italy / Germany / Switzerland
By Laura Bispuri (Sworn Virgin)
With Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Udo Kier
In den Gängen (In the Aisles)
By Thomas Stuber (Teenage Angst, A Heavy Heart)
With Franz Rogowski, Sandra Hüller, Peter Kurth
Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot
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
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
Berlinale Special Gala
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
Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Revolution)
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
30 years ago, the European Film Market (EFM) celebrated its premiere as an international trade market for films at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival. Today, the EFM is one of the most important film markets worldwide. It has become considerably more than just an industry get-together and distribution point: Starting with the digital transformation, the EFM began strategically opening up to new market participants, business fields, products and distribution paths. In recent years the EFM has increasingly positioned itself as a place for innovation and change in the film trade – without losing sight of its core business as a marketplace offering high-quality content. Its numerous platforms provide the film industry with trendsetting impulses that effectively strengthen its position as one of the most important international transfer points for moving pictures. The exhibition spaces for the upcoming EFM of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival at Martin-Gropius-Bau and the Marriott Hotel are already fully booked. More than 9,000 exhibitors, license traders, producers, buyers and investors are expected to attend the event over the course of nine market days from February 15 – 23, 2018.
“The industry is still in the midst of change. The digital transformation is not yet complete and new possibilities for film that are worth a closer look are constantly opening up. With its platforms and different formats, the EFM provides participants with the tools to meet the contemporary challenges of the business.”
President and founder of the EFM Beki Probst comments on the anniversary: “When the EFM began in 1988, it was clear that the Berlinale wanted to create a meeting point for the industry and that our planned format of a European Film Market would work. We never imagined that the EFM would become one of the most important film markets worldwide, reflecting the movements and pioneering spirit of the film industry in an incomparably diverse way. In all modesty: The EFM is a success story and has consistently been one for 30 years.”
Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick congratulates Beki Probst on 30 years of successful work: “Without Beki Probst and her contacts worldwide, her charm and cosmopolitan gift for combining business and culture, the EFM would never have become such a successful platform and the strong backbone of the festival.”
In its anniversary year, Canada will be the “Country in Focus” at the EFM. Canada’s successful film industry will present itself comprehensively and highlight special aspects of Canadian filmmaking.
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:
“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.
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.
(Source: Press release provided by Berlin Press Office)
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.
The Retrospective of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival will focus on the great variety of cinema in the Weimar era. Some one hundred years ago, at the end of World War I and the dawn of the Weimar Republic, one of the most productive and influential phases in German filmmaking began unfolding, a creative era that went on to shape international perception of the country’s film culture, even to the present day. For “Weimar Cinema Revisited”, the festival will present a total of 28 programs of narrative, documentary, and short films made between 1918 and 1933.
“Across genres, the Retrospective will document the Weimar Republic’s zeitgeist and tackle issues of identity. The spectrum encompasses zesty film operettas and comedies full of wordplay, as well as films with strong social and political viewpoints. The films are incredibly fresh and topical,” says Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick.
The Retrospective has three thematic emphases – “exotic”, “quotidian”, and “history”. In Im Auto durch zwei Welten (1927-1931) Clärenore Stinnes and Carl Axel Söderström take audiences on a fantastic trip to exotic, faraway lands. In Menschen im Busch (1930), an early example of ethnographic cinema, Friedrich Dalsheim and Gulla Pfeffer observe the unspectacular daily life of a family in Togo, breaking new ground by allowing the subjects themselves to speak instead of relying entirely on off-camera narration. The short films of documentarians such as Ella Bergmann-Michel, Winfried Basse, and Ernö Metzner capture 1920s life in Berlin and Frankfurt. In Brothers (1929), director Werner Hochbaum looks at a proletarian family and an existence marked by material deprivation. The film, which was backed by Germany’s Social Democratic Party, gains great authenticity with its use of amateur actors, and setting it during Hamburg’s 1896/97 dockworkers’ strike provides a reference to the contentious political issues of the 1920s. Heinz Paul is equally critical and sober with his portrayal of fresh historical events in The Other Side (1931). Conrad Veidt plays a traumatized British captain in World War I in Paul’s unsparing depiction of the senselessness and barbarity of the trench war.
“The Berlinale has already dedicated considerable Retrospectives to prominent directors and stars of Weimar‑era cinema. Now, with this thematic look back, it’s time to turn our attention to the films that are not necessarily part of the inner canon,” says Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective and artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.
The diversity of the Weimar film landscape is best grasped via the works of filmmakers who are not usually counted among the great and prominent directors of the era. The variety of the films, by directors as varied as Franz Seitz, Sr. (Der Favorit der Königin, 1922), Hermann Kosterlitz (The Adventure of Thea Roland, 1932), and Erich Waschneck (Docks of Hamburg, 1928), is evident in the abundance of not only differing subject matter, stories, and characters, but also aesthetic approach. Looking at this legendary epoch in German film history from a new perspective reinforces its artistic reputation.
Among the highlights of the Retrospective will be premiere screenings of films that have been newly restored by leading German archives and film institutions. The festival will be presenting the mountain epic Fight for the Matterhorn (Mario Bonnard, Nunzio Malasomma, 1928), Robert Reinert’s monumental Opium (1919), as well as a two-part film long thought lost – Urban Gad’s Christian Wahnschaffe (part 1: World Afire, 1920, part 2: The Escape from the Golden Prison, 1921), based on Jakob Wassermann’s 1919 novel The World’s Illusion.
Most of the silent film screenings will be accompanied by music played live by internationally renowned musicians. Maud Nelissen and Stephen Horne are familiar faces to Retrospective audiences. Günter Buchwald will be celebrating 40 years as a silent film accompanist in 2018. And a newcomer to the Berlin festival is young pianist Richard Siedhoff, who has already made a name for himself playing at important silent film galas, as well as contributing music to various DVD editions.
The German-language book “Weimarer Kino – neu gesehen” will be published by the Bertz + Fischer house as a companion piece to the Retrospective. The richly illustrated volume will present essays by well-known film experts and directors, who will write on many as yet lesser-known aspects of Weimar-era cinema. The Retrospective film programme will once again be accompanied by a host of special sidebar events in the Deutsche Kinemathek.
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 House, Félicité, El 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.
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 Forum, El 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 Agora, Casting 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.
A 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
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 lélekrőlexcelled 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.”
n 2018, Canada will be the next “Country in Focus” at the European Film Market (EFM) of the Berlin International Film Festival. The EFM’s “Country in Focus” programme, launched in 2017, was created to give the film industry and filmmakers of a country the opportunity to introduce themselves in greater depth and highlight certain aspects.
Supported by Telefilm Canada, Canada’s vibrant film scene will present itself from a variety of perspectives at the Berlinale’s EFM 2018. The highlights of the Canadian programme at the market will be published by September. A high number of Canadian producers and other film professionals are expected to attend the festival.
“Canada in Focus” at the EFM is being held on the occasion of “Canada 150”, which marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation in Canada. As an expression of the partnership between the two countries, exchange in the fields of culture, commerce, science and technology is to be intensified.
Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick comments: “For many years now, our relationship with Canada has been excellent and we’re neighbours of the Canadian Embassy at Potsdamer Platz. Sharing this commitment with our Canadian friends from Telefilm Canada at the EFM is a fantastic opportunity to develop our work together even further.”
Telefilm Canada’s Executive Director Carolle Brabant remarks: “We are honoured to be invited as the 2018 ‘Country in Focus’ at the European Film Market in Berlin. ‘Canada in Focus’ is an important global showcase for Canadian creators that will enable Canadian content to reach new audiences and will create new export opportunities for our industry. Canadian cinema has long felt at home at the Berlinale and the EFM. Collaborating in this way will only strengthen our good and longstanding partnership.”
EFM Director Matthijs Wouter Knol says: “The opportunity to focus on and extensively present film countries such as Canada at the market supports not only the EFM’s relationships with individual film industries internationally, but also fosters exchange between the film industries themselves. Canada will have spectacular visibility at the upcoming EFM.”
The EFM will take place from February 15 to 23, 2018 during the 68th Berlin International Film Festival.