Austerity is not an option that should be on the table. Jeremy Rifkin

Breathing cinema

The 65th Berlin International Film Festival – the Berlinale – starts today: For ten days the German capital will be ruled by cinema. A small outlook.

The Berlinale may be the most unusual film festival of all A-film-festivals. Berlin isn’t Cannes and it isn’t Venice. But you could also say: Cannes and Venice aren’t Berlin. Here, art meets commerce, Berlinale palace meets small neighborhood cinemas, stars meet starlets and of course the lines are blurred. For ten days the festival is taking over the city, Berlin is breathing cinema.

The Berlin International Film Festival for sure isn’t the most glamorous festival, but it is considered to be the most political. It’s arguable if that’s indeed true. What is definitely true: Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlinale, isn’t afraid of particular movies, but neither is he afraid of obvious crowd-pullers (this year: the film adaption of erotic megaseller “Fifty Shades of Grey”). At least there was already one minor politically motivated outrage: North Korea threatened the Berlinale because of the satire “The Interview” – which won’t even be shown at the festival, but is hitting movie theaters in Germany today, the same day the Berlinale has its official opening.

Many things to discover

This year’s slogan, as described by Kosslick, is „Strong women in exceptional conditions” and there are indeed some films in the programme matching it. For example the opening film “Nobody wants the night” starring French filmstar Juliette Binoche as Arctic traveller at the beginning of the 20th century. Or Nicole Kidman as “Queen of the desert” Gertrude Bell, who travelled to Tehran in 1920 and experienced the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Or “Ixcanul” about the young María, a Maya woman living with her parents at a coffee plantation at the foot of an active volcano. All three films are part of the official competition for the Golden Bear (Berlinale’s main prize).

But there are also many things to discover in other film sections: “Diary of a Teenage Girl” tells the story of 15 year old Minnie who is having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. The documentary “Hakie” highlights the life of a so-called “Burrnesha”, a sworn virgin who is living as a man socially in Albania.

However, the Berlinale shouldn’t be reduced all too much to its slogan – for there are of course many films comprising strong or weak men. And naturally too many films (a total of 441) are presented over only a short period of time, and theoretically everyone of these films could turn out to be a small (or big) jewel. Or at least not leave the audience completely bored.

Juvenile spirit

Because the audience constitutes an important part of the Berlinale, which is the largest publicly attended film festival worldwide. The Berlinale is turning 65 this year and therefore Dieter Kosslick – always on the go – has to come up with something to keep it all fresh. Until now that has been working out quite well. Some years ago the “Culinary Cinema” was introduced – a section where film, politics and food are supposed to intersect. In 2015 the Berlinale gave in to the TV shows hype: Not only is “Mad Men” inventor Matthew Weiner part of the International Jury, there will also be a presentation of TV shows from different countries, e.g. the new show of the Danish “Borgen” makers or “Better call Saul”, a spin-off of the hugely succesful “Breaking Bad”.

Which shows: The Berlinale may be a slightly older lady – but she retained her juvenile spirit. And a certain “Schnodderigkeit” (snotiness, as the sharp Berlin tongue would call it) anyway.

Translated from German.

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