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58TH BERLIN FESTIVAL OPENS WITH MICK, AND MARTY, AND PEN AND BEN ... - Part 1

2008 is not only the 58th edition of this major European film festival, all told, but it is also the ninth anniversary of the move from West Berlin to Potsdamer Platz in the actual physical center of the new undivided Berlin. The present location, now an ultra-modern stand of new architecture including the space age SONY Center, a film museum, many upscale restaurants and two sets of state-of-the-art  cinema multiplexes among its many attractions,  was once a No-Man’s-Land hugging the sinister wall between East and West during most of the Cold-War years. When the wall came tumbling down in ’89 and the two Germanys were reunited it soon became apparent that a move from the old West Berlin HQ on Budapester Strasse in the shadow of the monumental bombed out  WW II relic Gedächtnis Kirche would soon be in the offing. The festival was set up originally by the American occupiers of West Berlin in 1951 as a kind of cultural counter-attack to the Soviet encirclement and isolation of the city and the present SONY Center location is a kind of reminder that it's about  time to start forgetting the Hitler Era and move on to better things.

The festival is now so firmly ensconced in its new surroundings that the old days when the oceanic Zoo Palast was the venue for gala events is now a fast fading memory, although the Zoo Palace cinema is still used for certain peripheral screenings and a few other venues on the distant west side of town such as the Delphi film palace in Charlottenberg and the Urania cinema on a wide boulevard closer in to the new center are still used as regular festival screening sites.   The new gala center of the festival, however, is the 1,600 seat Berlinale Palast located at aptly named Number 1 Marlene Dietrich Platz. This imposing piece of modern architecture with its soaring glass façade was designed by Renzo Piano and is used as a music theater the rest of the year.  This is where the gala red carpet star arrivals are now staged and simultaeously shown on a giant TV screen off to the side of the main entrance.

Across the square the nerve center of the festival is the Hyatt hotel which is where the press conferences following principal screenings are held and where the computer room for the press corps is located. At the side of this building there is always a crush of cordoned off stargazers during the day, waiting patiently whatever the weather, to catch a glimpse of a big star checking in for a press conference through the side entrance.  On Day One, Friday, it was the arrival of director Martin Scorcese and the Rolling Stones live, here to present the opening film of the fest, Scorcese’s rockumentary “Shine A Light” featuring the seemingly ageless Stones.

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THE FESTIVALS BLOG by Alex Deleon. Watch for festival coverage from the circuit.

Ambiance and reviews from the hot spots. Welcoming your comments too.


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