The Berlinale is centrally located in cinemas around Potsdamer Platz, such as Berlinale Palast; Cinemaxx 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8; CineStar 3, 7, 8; and Arsenal. Still, half the films are shown in other places across town. The festival organizers provide free shuttle buses to the out-lying cinemas and an U-Bahn is never far away. However, I decided to ditch both shuttle bus and U-Bahn to travel in style by taxi. This never cost more than EUR 8 and the drivers were talkative throughout the ride. Reza said, “Come visit us in Iran. Send us your president George Bush, too.” Harald, the only German, was a former teacher. His father-in-law was an art historian who had helped set up Die Brücke art exhibit in Berlin. Luckily I had also written about Die Brücke in Hamburg, so could cover up my pitiful ignorance for once.
All the taxi drivers loved Berlin. When I mentioned the short, 90-minute train ride from Hamburg to Berlin, they saw only one advantage: it brought customers to them. None had any inclination to jump onto the fast train to Hamburg, although Mustafa had “been in Norderstedt once.” When I told Mohammed that I was on my way to see George Michael in his new documentary, he said, “I look just like George Michael. I have a band. I think I must be the new George Michael.” With one hand on the door handle in case I had to escape a crazy driver, I opened my Berlinale magazine with the other hand and read aloud all three upcoming venues of Michael’s film. A quick look in the rear-view mirror showed that Mohammed in a light blue t-shirt and long hair, truly looked like a younger version of the British pop star. When we arrived at the International Cinema a huge crowd was already waiting. The Berlin mayor, Klaus Wowereit, and his boyfriend were on the red carpet, signing autographs. “What’s going on here?” said Mohammed. “George Michael is opening his film.” Finally, realizing the significance of the event, he stopped and said, “If I get out now, everyone will think I’m George Michael and run over here, screaming.” “Right,“ I said. “Here’s your money. Keep the change and let me out first before this happens.” But in the end he drove off, never to prove if he could pass for George Michael. Perhaps he was shy or perhaps the mad, gay audience presented a scary side to fame.