Happy 60th Birthday to the Berlinale, a festival by the people, for the people, and of the people (contrary to Cannes, for example)! Everyone was invited and everyone went, with a record ticket sale over 300,000. Many tickets more handed out to the 20,000 professional film people from 122 countries, of which 4000 were journalists. This year the celebration looked back over sixty years of the Berlinale. Originally set up to be a showcase of the former GDR, Hollywood stars would appear in the summer bringing hundreds of people out on the street to greet them. Now, the festival has changed not only its schedule from summer to winter but has expanded its boundaries to include art shows, food, and designers. It also highlights the talents of less-known countries which often receive the Golden Bear for their work. In fact, the film festival literally takes over Berlin and incorporates many different aspects in this wonder city making it fun for anyone who happens to be there.
About the Festival
On February 1, ten days before kick-off time, we traveled to Berlin for the day to attend the pre-press conference (complete with 60th birthday cake for the journalists). Dieter Kosslick, festival director, and his team summarized what to expect. Kosslick has a talent for introducing new aspects to the Berlinale which then become very successful and permanent. For example, he started the Talent Campus eight years ago. This year 350 young people from 95 countries worked a week under the guidance of 150 (many of them famous) professionals and attended 100 workshops. The culinary Kino began four years ago and was at first not very exciting: bad food, bad ambience. This year the online tickets were sold out in 30 seconds. New this year was “Berlinale goes Kiez.” (Kiez refers to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, but means “the neighbourhood” in Berlin). Outlying Kiez cinemas showed ten different films on certain evenings.“ Bring the Berlinale to the people” could be the motto.
The festival featured a giant, 300-meter curtain made out of film junk such as DVDs and posters by the Korean-American art designer Christina Kim. It spanned the Brandenburger Tor for the opening, but didn’t stay up very long, so unfortunately we both missed seeing it. This year started off with the spectacular premiere of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with its latest restoration work.
Fifty-eight countries were represented. The jury chair was Werner Herzog, director of Fitzcarraldo as well as six jury members including German actress Cornelia Froboess and, for those who remember Bridget Jones and Nurse Betty, comedian Renee Zellweger.
Fun for Tourists
After the pre-press conference, we explored Berlin for half a day, something impossible to do during the actual festival. We saw the Brandenburger Tor. We visited Madame Tussauds wax museum (Unter den Linden 74) to “hang out” with George Clooney and Michael Jackson, while learning about the history of wax museums. We checked out the fairly new DDR museum (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1 right on the Spree River) where you can learn about the philosophy behind the regime of that time. The museum has a hand-on approach; you can open and close drawers, pick up objects and see films. They even have an apartment which was typical for that time period. We rode up the 368-meter high Berliner TV Tower (Fernsehturm, Panoramastr. 1a, near Alexander Platz) and ate in the rotating café. Finally we shopped at the Hackesche Höfe (Rosenthalerstr 40-41 and Sophienstr. 6). The turn-of-the century architecture of this little maze which is contained in an inner Hofis one to marvel at. Each building contains two or three shops which range from bead collections to clothes and accessories. It even has one of the small cinemas involved in the Berlinale and is an area we would love to check out again.
Going back to Hamburg we jumped on the wrong train which took us to the middle of former Eastern Germany. One young German passenger also made the same mistake so we didn’t feel totally stupid. We took another train back to Berlin and finally arrived in Hamburg at 2 o’clock in the morning.