The Berlinale offers press screenings before the actual festival begins. Why go to pre-screenings when there are ten official days of films? Scheduling! For me, that is the most difficult issue. The festival has around a thousand screenings of over 300 films and draws close to half a million movie goers. Different rules for screenings apply for accredited press. For pre-screenings, it is possible to sit in a theater the entire day (with only ten to fifteen minute breaks) to see films in a particular category. That frees up more time during the festival for participating in press conferences, more screenings and lots of other activities. I spent three days pre-screening films in the Kulinarisches Kino (Culinary Cinema) program. Many of those films are shown during the festival at 10 p.m., which can challenge your stamina after seeing four or five other films earlier in the day.
Some of the benefits of press accreditation help in the process of writing. For instance, we have access to press conferences for films in Competition, and some other categories as well. This time around, I went to the press conference for the Panorama category film The Souvenir which featured Tilda Swinton and her daughter, Honor Swinton-Byrne. Not only is it exciting to see actors up close, it can be really enlightening to hear them talk about their roles and to ask questions. One of my favorite moments at the Berlinale was when Kirk Douglas told me I spoke very good English! Most embarrassing was when I asked George Michael about exposing himself, having misstated my question in front of dozens of camera and live on the big screen outside the Berlinale Palast Theater. Conversing live with the stars is a Berlinale highlight!
Being a film critic at a film festival is real work and can be overwhelming. The Berlinale has provided bottled water, coffee, carry bags, reusable cups, and lounges for meetups or just hanging out. This year coffee was provided if you had your own cup (Berlinale red bear cups available for 2€). Coffee is a good idea when you have a day of four bad films in a row, but without much time to eat, the consequences can be uncomfortable! The best perk I found this year was a press lounge on the 24th floor of the Kollhoff Building at 1 Potsdamer Platz. Entrance was free with our press pass but drinks, desserts and light snacks were expensive. What was worth the ride in the world’s fastest elevator was the view. This roof top café is usually open to the public (for a fee) and has a bit of Berlin history explained on one floor up as well as a top floor viewing area. There you can get a good sense of what has changed since the Berlin wall came down. Other places for press include access to the Gropius Mirror Restaurant for breakfast and the Audi Berlinale Lounge across from the Berlinale Palast Theater which provides a nice, heated place to watch what’s happening on the red carpet. You just need to find some lounge time in your busy screening schedule!