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What a Festival!
by Becky Tan

Every February I struggle to overcome a full calendar and schedule a trip to the Berlinale. Once there, happy and relieved, I just sink into a world of over 400 films at this 66th Berlinale. Of these films, 77 were documentaries; 104 female directors presented their work. Meryl Streep led a jury of six international jury members. Comedianne/actress Anke Engelke once again moderated both opening and award ceremonies in her sassy style. The Teddy Awards celebrated its 30th anniversary; the Kulinarisches Kino (Culinary Cinema) its 10th anniversary.

I saw 22 films and each time my cinema was full of viewers, even on a Sunday morning at 11 o’clock on the day after the festival ended and all directors had disappeared to their native countries and were not available for Q & A. The cinema was still full. What an inviting, enthusiastic atmosphere. In spite of the crowds, no one seemed uneasy about possible terrorist-type attacks. One security rule was in effect: people were not allowed to bring luggage into the press center or into cinemas. Naturally, considering the thousands of people who travelled to Berlin for the festival, luggage was a daily hindrance, but not inside a cinema.

Ticket sales reached a new high with 337,000 sold. There were more than 3000 journalists accredited. That’s not counting the European Film Market which ran parallel and counted 8,500 participants. Over 543 exhibitors from 73 countries took the opportunity to “sell” their films to 1,500 buyers from more than 100 countries. There were 1090 market screenings with 532 premieres.

For the first time the Berlinale invited refugees to attend films at no cost. The festival also collected 25,000 euros in donations to support refugees.

The Berlinale would never be possible without its loyal sponsors: Audi, L’Oréal Paris, Tesiro , ZDF, Glashtte Original MasterCard – eventually 35 sponsors in all. For the third year, Audi offered its lounge in front of the Berlinale Palast for 30 free events attended by 7,200 visitors (and the only place where there was a kind of airport-like screening before entry was permitted). The organizers are quite proud of the progress in digital reproduction, with 95% of the 2,500 screenings shown digitally in DCP (Digital Cinema Partner) format. Analog screenings served mostly for the retrospective and homage sections.

Film critic and jury member Nick James from the United Kingdom said it all, “With some films one leaves the cinema thinking what a good film and the next day you can’t remember anything about it. Others one leaves thinking: what was that all about? Not so hot and three days later one is still thinking about it – it grabs you.”

Your next chance for a film to “grab you” is the 67th Berlinale February 9-19, 2017. I’ll bet the organizers are hoping to reach a new record of 400,000 tickets sold.