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We did it again!
by Becky Tan

The 63rd Berlinale ran February 7-17 and, once again, three members of our team represented us through Currents Magazine and Shelly Schoeneshoefer, Mary Nyiri and Rose Finlay. Mary initiated our participation in the Berlinale in 2001 and has attended almost every year since. Shelly started going regularly a few years later and we depend on her for, among other topics, children’s and young people’s films as well as interesting interviews. Rose is the novice Berlinale attendee and one of the first ever to attend all eleven days from morning to night. “Actually,” Rose says, “I skipped the last day. I was exhausted. And look at Shelly who was there for fewer days than I was, but saw more films than I did. How did she do that?”

As usual, Shelly predicted the winner, Child’s Pose, and many foreign journalists agreed with her. She says, “It’s easy. The winning film always shows on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the festival and this was the best one of those two days.”

Statistically, the festival was, once again, a huge success. There were 19,630 accredited visitors from 124 counties and 3,694 were journalists, including us. They sold a record 303,077 tickets to film fans. Every year we encourage our readers to “just go to Berlin and buy tickets. Or better yet, set up your own personal Berlinale on-line file and start filling it up with titles and then buy the tickets.” Lucky for us, Hamburg is just a 90-minute train ride from Berlin.

The local press, and I’ll take as an example prominent German critic Hanns-Georg Rodek of Die Welt, disparaged the selection of films in competition as being neither very exciting nor
by well-known directors. Some reporters even said the films were blah, the red carpet bereft of famous names. Rodek, fairly, discusses reasons for this phenomenon and mentions that the February time frame might have a lot to do with it. The Oscars, formerly presented in March, now happen in February and big-name American film people hover close to Hollywood at this time. The Toronto film festival scoops up all Oscar-worthy films for its own festival in November. Cannes offers a fresh start as well as warm weather in May. Up until 1977 the Berlinale was in June, although June also now no longer seems to be an option.

Rodek says that the Berlinale is good at finding unknown film makers and giving them a platform, awarding them prizes (e.g., Hamburg’s Fatih Akin in 2004), but once they are launched, they turn to Cannes. In order to qualify for the Berlinale, a film must be either a world premiere or have shown only in its own country. In these days of instant digital transportation, many films open simultaneously here as well as in their home country, which automatically takes them out of Berlinale competition.

One trump card the Berlinale holds, however, is the industry’s part of the festival called European Film Market. Here, the nine-day market showed 816 films at 1,166 presentations on 40 screens and more than half were absolute premieres. This film market is the second largest in the world and always the first to kick off the new season of films.

Problems exist to be solved and we will definitely not lose interest in this film festival which, next year, will be February 6-16. Read the following reports and you’ll be hot to sign up!