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The 65th Berlinale Film Festival
by Becky Tan

The 65th annual Berlinale film festival played February 5-15 in the Berlinale Palast at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. German actress and comedienne Anke Engelke moderated the event in her usual laid-back, English-German hodgepodge, which is her trademark. She introduced the participants of the opening film, Nobody Wants the Night, directed by Isabel Coixets, and starring Juliette Binoche. She also introduced the members of the jury for international competition: Daniel Brühl, Bong Joon-ho, Martha de Laurentiis, Claudia Llosa, Audrey Tautou and Matthew Weiner, led by jury Chair Darren Aronofsky. Jury members watched three films a day, a total of 19 films in competition and presented eight prizes the evening of February 14.

On opening night many German as well as international stars and film makers walked the red carpet into the Berlinale Palast. Engelke flirted with American actor James Franco during the presentation. He was represented with three films this year: Every Thing will be Fine, I am Michael, and Queen of the Desert. Naturally, festival head Dieter Kosslick was on stage, along with German politicians. The new Berlin mayor, Michael Müller, attended, or as Anke Engelke said, “Our mayor with the uneventful name, Mike Miller, is also here.”
Engelke’s most important words in a cascade of commentary, were, “The Berlinale is for the public – ein Publikumsfest.” We are lucky (especially compared to other festivals worldwide) that we, as normal film fans, can buy a ticket and go to a Berlinale film. It’s not unusual for people to take some days off work and go to Berlin for several days, just to enjoy the atmosphere and watch films – what else is there to do in cold northern Germany in February?”

The Berlinale website has improved considerably over the years. It is in both German and English. You could set up your own list and order film tickets online and either print them out yourself, or pick them up at the Arcade Mall headquarters near Potsdamer Platz when you get there. The complete list of over 400 films was online. Tickets were available three days before each showing, beginning at 10:00. However, a popular film was often totally sold out (!) in a few minutes. However, no fear: last-minute tickets were available at the individual cinemas on the day of the showing. Many films were in English or had English subtitles.

Besides the 19 films in competition, there were big-name films showing out of competition. (Cinderella and Mr. Holmes are two examples.) Then there is the section called Panorama. These are often the best films, which for some reason, didn’t reach the international competition section and this year there were 34 films from 29 countries in the Panorama Section with 19 more in the Panorama documentary section and 15 in the Panorama Special Section. Members of the audience voted on these films to determine which would win the Panorama prizes for best film and best documentary film.

Other categories were Forum (perhaps by little- known, younger, international film makers, but nevertheless those with potential), Perspectives German Kino (young German filmmakers), Generation 14Plus and KPlus (films for teenagers and younger children – all of which were be equally satisfying for adults). Short films were shown five or six in one sitting. The retrospective films are always historically famous ones, chosen according to a theme. The theme this year was “Glorious Technicolor” with films from 1922-1953. Films under the topic “Hommage” were by German director Wim Wenders who received an award for his life’s work.

Perhaps one of the best developments since the founding of the Berlinale is that with the advent of the internet and websites, you can not only order tickets online, but you can watch press conferences online. As a result, the line between accredited journalists sitting in on the press conference and the rest of us has grown less divisional. In my experience, even accredited journalists don’t always get into a press showing, and are left standing outside the door, watching it on TV. You can watch it wherever you like. Go to “in focus,” click “live videos,” and watch them in the original language, as well as simultaneous translations in English or German.

As I always say, “It takes two years’ experience to become a festival pro”.
The next 66th lBerlinale will be February 11-21, 2016