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The 67th Berlinale
by Becky Tan

The 67th Berlinale showed 399 films, February 9-19, 2017. Much of the action was centered at Potsdamer Platz, but films also showed in cinemas all over town. More than 350,000 tickets were sold. There were 7000 official visitors. Parallel was the European Film Market, which was just as successful with 10,000 trade professionals viewing films to buy and take back to their 108 countries.

The Berlinale Talents was often sold out, as I soon realized in trying to get a ticket to hear director Raoul Peck discuss his work, including his two films which showed at the Berlinale: I am not Your Negro (which won best documentary in the Panorama Section) and The Young Karl Marx. Luckily, I could watch the entire discussion online under I attended a discussion in the popular Audi Berlinale Lounge right in front of the Berlinale Palast where all films in competition premiered. Here, there were four young filmmakers, all Berlinale Talent alumni who had celebrated success. One, Jayro Bustamante, was actually in competition in 2015 with his film IXCANUL, when he won the Alfred Bauer prize for new perspectives. He said that the Berlinale is a serious festival and very important, because other festivals pick up films here and show them in other parts of the world, also to great success.

Some press conferences were completely full, such as one with the makers of T2 Trainspotting (e.g., Danny Boyle) and Logan (actor Hugh Jackman). Some press conferences were not so well attended; a journalist must decide: go to a press conference or go to the next film? This is a tough decision, especially since press conferences can be viewed online on the Berlinale website. Film showings open to the public were full all the time , e.g., Chavela – a documentary about a lesbian singer – was full on a late Thursday night, in spite of the fact that we didn’t get out until around midnight.

Anke Engelke was, once again, the mistress of ceremonies on opening and closing nights. The opening on February 9 was an unusually cold night, even for Berlin and beautiful ladies in skimpy clothing suffered. Engelke was in her usual good form, saying, You are here because your country won’t let you back in,” referring to people like US actor Richard Gere (who was in Berlin for his film The Dinner). This was one of the rare jabs at contemporary U.S. politics. Naturally, many other VIPs were introduced, including, of course, festival head Dieter Kosslick and jury president Paul Verhoeven from the Netherlands, as well as his six jury members, who were all there to view and select prize winners.

Not only are films fun and educating, but talking to people along the way is, too. At the Korean film Autumn Autumn I sat next to a film critic from Vienna who explained her work. I talked to a couple from Karlsruhe, who always takes a week off work just to see films in Berlin. We both enjoyed the US film Freak Show. A policeman stood by the Audi Berlinale Lounge, making sure the line stayed put until entry at 14:00. He said that he lived in Berlin, but actually came from Hamburg St. Pauli and would be happy if he could move back. I watched The King’s Choice with a young woman from the Canadian consulate, which is right off of Potsdamer Platz. She was so happy, finally, to see a film. She said the consulate was busy with visitors representing the 24 films which had a connection to Canada. Also, the consulate sponsored a film exhibit, open to the public during the festival, and she had been working overtime until almost the last day.

I enjoyed comparing impressions with my colleagues Shelly, Mary, and Rose, who are represented in this magazine. Together we managed to see 80 films in 125 films showings, not including the Berlinale Classics, which we had all seen at some time in the past. I am still trying to decide how the Berlinale staff decides which film goes into which category. Sometimes it’s obvious: a film from Greenland can go into the NATIVe category. But why did Joaquim show in the competition category, when Vazante, which covered the same topic and was ten times better, “only” appeared in the Panorama Special category? Perhaps I will learn more next year at the 68th Berlinale: February 15-25, 2018.