Synergy: the interaction of elements that, when combined, produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements. “Synergy” was the ideal theme for the 55th Berlinale. Take the elements of more than 3000 accredited journalists, people from all facets of filmmaking, juries and prizes, and a record number of Berliners (140,000 tickets sold) attending 400 films and you have a festival tingling with excitement. It’s hard to walk away on the last day.
This year Hamburg’s English language journalists: experienced Mary Nyiri (seven Berlin film festivals) and her two novices: Karen Pecota and Shelly Schoeneshoefer, arrived a day early for orientation. The last six days newcomer Patricia Ritz and I (three years’ festival experience) arrived privately, as backup. The festival head, Dieter Kosslick, promised “sex, politics and rock’n’roll” in a program “for the head and the heart” and he didn’t let us down.
Our group created its own unflagging synergy and the results are impressive as reflected in our reports on the extraordinary quality and diversity of films in Berlin. Take the time to read about European, Asian and German films, love films (Love Lessons) and gay films (A Little Bit Gay and George Michael). We share press conferences (Could you Repeat the Question, Icing on the Cake) and interviews with filmmakers (Generational Transfer, Winner’s Circle) as well as special films (Heaven’s Gate). We cover a series of films about post-war re-education (Selling Democracy). Naturally, there were the winners (U-Carmen eKhayelitsha and Spotlight On). On the political scene we were impressed with two films about the Rwandan war (Message in a Movie). Read about suicide bombers in Paradise Now (The Promised Land),which was a successful result of the synergy of the Berlinale and the World Cinema Fund which together provided financial assistance to make the film and came up with a winner.
Berlin itself is brimming with synergy. We introduce you to our hotel (Frauenhotel), talk about taxis, share experiences with other journalists (Passing the Business Card) and introduce a German colleague (Meanwhile Back at the Hamburger Abendblatt).
With the help of our “Survival Kits” we were fit for fun. Fun meant leaping out of bed at 6:30 a.m. and returning post-midnight, not to sleep, but to mull over impressions of four to five films as well as several interviews and press conferences each day. Guess which journalist survived with which prop and you can win a DVD.
One never shakes off the Berlinale experience. It follows us, not only in credit card bills as you might think, but in films which find distributors and appear a week later in Hamburg’s cinemas (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Sophie Scholl, One Day in Europe, Hitch, In Good Company). Later we relive a bit of the Berlinale when a festival film makes it to German TV. The saddest ghosts to haunt us are those films which find no distributor and disappear. We treasure them as faint impressions, as part of our personal memories of a ten-day window of opportunity in Berlin.
The Berlinale is a user-friendly festival open to the public. Ordinary people take vacations solely to travel to the city to sit in the dark for a week. Try it yourself next year, February 9-19, 2006.