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The Lay of the Land
by Karen Pecota

To make the most out of my Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) experience, I need to have a visual concept of the venues which will house films, lectures, panel discussions, press conferences, etc. The festival press office and its organizers provide an excellent handbook to all who attend for official business; be it Press, European Film Market people, film makers, photographers, stars or the general public ticket holder.

The day I receive permission to check out the festival program online, I begin to organize a tentative schedule of my interests. I quickly assess a rough draft schedule for the days I will attend the festival including my first, second, and third choice of films, lectures, or other events. I document this on a single sheet of paper for each day (see example).

I take two things into consideration before fine tuning my schedule: figure out the location of the event, and calculate the time it will take to get to the desired location from Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz (central location for the competition films and festival headquarters). The travel time to and from a venue will dictact what I can attend in a single day. The timetable for films and events do not always coordinate, therefore, choosing ahead of time what I hope to see or its alternative will decide what constitutes my festival report.

Every year I learn more about the city of Berlin (as the official host of the Berlinale) and how accessible the public transportation is to reach not only the festival venues but many places of interest located around the city. For example, the Hotel Intermezzo fürFrauen where my colleagues and I reside during the festival is a 10-minute walk to Potsdamer Platz, a 10-minute walk to Brandenburg Gate (located at the foot of the famous street Unter den Linden), a 10-minute bus ride to Berlin’s main train station or Germany’s largest department store KeDeWe, a 15-minute walk to Check Point Charlie Museum, the Jewish Museum, or the fabulous Pergimum Museum, or a three-minute walk to the high end shopping streets of Friedrichstrasse and Möhrenstrasse.

The Berlinale festival headquarters at the Hyatt Hotel off Potsdamer Platz has three main event theaters within a few minutes’ walking distance. You can actually plant yourself in this location alone for the entire duration of your festival stay to see films all day and into the night. This year, I needed to attend films at some of the outlying theaters: Coloseum, Cubix, Zeughaus Kino, and Zoo Palast. I anxiously anticipated watching films in these theaters because of the varied architectural style and age of the buildings. The festival headquarters information center provided me with a wonderful, simple city transportation map and together we marked all of the festival venues. I had the perfect visual aid which fit nicely into my coat pocket to be used at a moment’s notice. The Berlin City Bus, U-Bahn and S-Bahn, all have stops at Potsdamer Platz, which transported me from one stop to the other with swiftness and ease. The travel time ranged from a mere five to 20 minutes, once I was on the necessary mode of transportation. In some cases it was faster to walk to the venue than hop the bus which was a refreshing break from the activity of theater sitting. I confidently explored Berlin and enjoyed the invigorating experience of hopping the Buses 100/200, or the U2/S1 trains regularly, as if, “I were a Berliner.” Thankfully this helped me from becoming a “jelly-filled donut” too. Discovering the lay-of-the-land makes the Berlinale experience refreshing and a fun connection to the film industry. Every year it sets the stage for a special adventure, which without fail, creates a special memory.