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The 70th Berlinale International Film Festival will be held from February 20 to March 1, 2020.
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Berlinale 2007, Dieter Kosslick’s Reflections Part I

Dieter Kosslick continues to imprint his signature on the Berlinale.

He has transformed the Berlin Festival into the largest audience oriented international film festival. Through the European Film Market and the main competition,  the Berlinale has met commercial interests while satisfying cinematic ones through the Panorama, Forum and other Berlinale components.

Unlike Cannes and Venice, the Berlinale features the Talent Campus, permits large testing of new productions and presents a balanced menu of feature films and documentaries.

Though its budget now exceeds $20 million the Berlinale cannot compete with the deep pockets of the festivals of Dubai, Rome,  Pusan, and Venice (currently investing $120 million in its expansion). Yet the Berlinale’s marketing value, its decidedly clear political orientation, and the annual addition of innovative components such as the Talent Campus, the World Cinema Fund and the Co-Production Conference, to name but a few, more than compensate for the  Dubai or deep pocket factor.

Thus, the Berlinale has no need to ‘purchase’ fame and recognition on the international film festival circuit.

For the 2006 Berlinale and European Film Market about 7000 films were submitted and all professional and public events were booked out.  Numerous companies could not be accommodated in the European Film market and more than 200 000 tickets were sold for the public screenings.  

But, certainly, there were controversies.

The biggest centered on a main selection feature, BORDER TOWN which was shredded by the critics and met with press derision. Funded in part by its lead actress Jennifer Lopez the film draws focuses on globalization and its horrendous consequences for impoverished third world workers. Dieter Kosslick and Berlin’s Mayor  Klaus Wowereit consider the choice of BORDER TOWN most appropriate. The feature is based on the documented case of the murder and rape of hundreds of women working in  the maquillas  factories  of Juarez, a town on the US-Mexican border  and depicts crimes which are still covered up by Mexican authorities in collusion with US interests. As Wowereit put it “Inclusion [of BORDER TOWN] does not distract at all from the festival. It is important for the political mission of the Berlinale”. 

For Kosslick, this mission remains one of the defining criteria for the fest.  

Claus Mueller:  What are the new thematic tendencies of the 2007 Berlinale, if any?

 Dieter Kosslick:  It turns out that a lot of films are about history and reality. That is what is going on today, and both subjects are very linked. The films are made because of the reality we face today, this means if Clint Eastwood makes a movie about the war in Japan, he tries to understand the war  through images. This is  why  his films are so close to the Berlinale and  why I gave him a Berlinale camera.  We share the same aim…  we want to have our old morals back, that is trust , tolerance, and so on. We want to accept  diversity  and just get a better understanding  This has always been the aim of the Berlinale and it is written in our guidelines from 1951,  we have  to do the festival to understand each other better in the world… Voelkerverstaendigung

CM I understand that 5500 films were submitted to the Berlinale  this year and  more than 1500 to the film market…. Is there a danger that  some good films fall between the cracks since such a great amount of films are submitted?

DK Hopefully not.

CM Well, yes or no ?

DK It could be… but we have a German organization at the festival.  Each film has a number thus we know about all films. Of course films can fall [between the cracks] and we actually found one in the big box. For example, yesterday we screened  WHEN A MAN FALLS IN THE FOREST… this was a movie we [initially] had no idea about . It turned out it was with Sharon Stone and Timothy Hutton  by this young film maker [ Ryan Eslinger] who had done his second movie and we thought he will be a great artists in the future, thus we took his picture. Yet it can happen that a film is disregarded ,  to be honest.

CM Was this the only surprise for this festival?  .. … Or in  more general terms, did things happened that you did not expect to happen?

DK    Well,  I mean  the festival is getting bigger and bigger we are running now the culinary cinema and built up a new restaurant and I was there last night  and I must say it  was really a big surprise for me. The restaurant really worked the way we wanted it to work.  But the biggest surprise this year in the festival is not that the [European Film]  market is three times bigger than it was before-- just in two years-- the biggest surprise are all the stars who are coming to Berlin. This is really a star studded festival, we never had this before.

CM   Certainly true, but there are other questions. You have been adding each year a new component to the Berlinale, like this year the keynotes…

DK   But we have to stop. The festival is now basically finished from a structural end.

CM   In other words you will not be adding..

DK  Well, we have the Generation part now, we have the Talent Campus, we have the retrospectives, and so on   The festival is perfectly structured.  What we do with the  culinary cinema  is for the audience. We need to do things for the normal audience, fuers Publikum., and this is also the reason why we have a new cinema the Cubix [at Alexander Platz).. Because the people are here [at Potsdamer Platz] , want to have tickets  and they cannot go in the cinema. For the director of a festival this is the most stupid thing in history, the people want to go ins Kino and they cannot go. This is what we are thinking about… how to give to the normal audience more possibilities , more platforms to participate in the Festival.

CM  Lets assume you have suddenly  a new corporate sponsor who gives you carte blanche … look here you have one million euros.. What would you want to do…. feed more goodies to the audience and the stars or ?

DK   No, first of all what I would do is..  I  would build a transparent huge roof up to here [ between the Berlinale Palace and the Hyatt Hotel]  thus all the people who would want to look at the stars  are under a transparent roof  in the night and  under the big lights…. anyway I  do this also without the sponsors.

CM   What about the impact of new technologies ?  Much research shows that the younger audience with ‘portable platforms’ may no longer be drawn to theaters?

DK  I know,   you are asking this question right  one hour before we start a new thing. I it is called  ‘Berlinale Kinos’  which all deals with digital business. We will have the biggest shop of  the world’s digital industry in the Ritz Carlton today [the Keynote session].  I do not know how it will turn out but it is all about this subject. On the third floor of the European Film Market  with Arts Alliance,  who is now our new  corporate sponsor,  we have a daily panel about the future of the digital business in film and television .  Thus we are covering this topic and we have in the theaters digital technologies

CM  How will these new technologies impact the festival audience?. Recall your joke from last year last year that you will have special programs for senior?

DK   Just one of my jokes, you know. I got to do something for them since I  am becoming a  senior. Actually I am thinking about  this, the problem is that older people are not actually older in a way, thus I if you make something for older people you have to pay attention that you do not  [set them apart] discriminate them. We are thinking about a program  which is more aimed at that audience group. If you check the red carpet there are older people not just looking but actually going to the cinemas. I am happy that at the moment it works but, but I want to do something during the year, and give them a chance[to see movies]

CM: Well the younger audience , at least in the States, carry their viewing platforms with  them.

DK:  I know everything is dangerous in life, you can die. In this digital world you can watch movies in the bathrooms. I know all this, but I tell you the cinema will exist like the books exist after the new technologies moved in.

CM:    Dieter, is there life for you after the Berlinale

DK:    Certainly, children, the country side and cooking

This the first part of the interview.  Part two will be published in early April. 

Claus Mueller, New York Correspondent
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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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