Athens – Every time I visit one of the festivals, whether I am working for the event or just “working” watching films, I always need some time to pull myself together again and detox from the constant film viewing in order to review the facts and reach my conclusions, detached from the emotions and the enthusiasm of being part of a global cinematic event, that is in the epicentre of interest for 10 days.
And of course I always fail!
So, as the rumpus for the equivocal awards is settling down and George Clooney still comments on the return of the Elgin Marbles to Athens, prepare yourself for a very personal account of this year’s Berlinale.
Returning to Berlin, after three years of absence, and for the first time without any sort of accreditation, I really did not know what to expect. Once I got myself acquainted with the city again in no time –if you have been once in Berlin it really stays with you forever– I reached the Arkaden Mall in Potsdamer Platz, the place that would become my home for the next 10 days. The enormous queues I encountered on that first day of the ticket sales, really terrified me. But once the initial shock is over, you realise that this queue is the best place in town to discuss on films you have watched, films you want to watch and take in suggestions to adjust your schedule!
The routine at the queue had as following: I was arriving at the Arkaden at 07:15 approx, only to find that about 20 to 25 people were in front of me in line! At this point, I should mention, that the ticket counters were opening at 10:00 am! You look on your film schedule and cross check ticket availability on the screen. Waiting till 08:00 am -opening time of the neighbouring Starbucks- for a coffee break. Return to the queue and check the screen again, only to find out another film title that sounds interesting, but overlaps with your current choices. So you recur to the festival catalogue to read the summary, check the schedule if there are extra screenings on different days, ask your fellow film buffs their opinion and readjust your timetable! Then the screening gets sold out, so it is literally: check, adjust, repeat!
And it is indeed repeated on a daily basis, as ticket sales open only 3 days prior to each screening day of the festival. Unless the film is in the official competition, in which case you can buy tickets 4 days before. Or if it is playing in Friedrichstadt Palast, where you can purchase tickets from the first day of sales. And the same rules apply for Kinotag (cinema day), on the last day of the festival. Got confused already! Me too in the beginning, but oddly enough this complex system really works! Movie theaters are packed, everyone gets tickets in the films of their preference – more or less- and the interest of the audience is kept alive throughout the festival, as obtaining a ticket seems like a victorious quest. And no quest can be won without a struggle!
Getting the tickets is the only the beginning of the cinematic adventure! Following, you will find my best moments from the 64th Berlinale!
A festival is as good as its film selection. And this year’s Berlinale was as sweet and pleasant as Berlin’s weather during the first fortnight of February: cosy with only a few moments of bitter chills! “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was my festival highlight, Kraftidioten the most hilariously violent film I watched in years, greek cinema (Standing aside, watching & Stratos) -inspite its introversion- was worth seeing, masterpieces from the archives (The Hero, Rashomon, Germany, Pale Mother) were restored and showcased at the big screen and history was brilliantly portrayed in films like Memory of the Camps and Diplomacy.
Saturday afternoon, I am enjoying my lunch, while I watch the broadcast of the press conference for Monuments Men on the matrix in the atrium of Sony Center. The questions regarding Clooney’s looks dominate the room, in what would be the most vapid press junket in film history, if it wasn’t for the greek lady! We reach the end of the session, the coordinator gives the mic for one last question to Elisabeth Chris. “What is your proposal, for us Greeks, to reclaim our monuments back from England?” and boom… Clooney gives a very diplomatic answer, greek media embellish the statements, Daily Mail responds, Greek Minister of Culture sends a thank you letter to Clooney, Mayor of London compares Clooney to Hitler(!!) and Clooney hoaxing calls Boris Johnson a drunk! And that is how a mediocre film gets wide audiences!
The Berlinale Talents Campus is one of the things that make Berlin festival to stand out and puts it along with Cannes in a very small club. It is not only about showcasing films, hosting a market where industry professionals can buy and sell films or co-produce new projects. Berlinale is investing in new talents, evolving the cinematic art into new levels. Masterclasses, panels, specialised labs and scholarships. No wonder that people like Eskil Vogt, talent 10 years ago in Berlinale, come back to the festival with a film like Blind, the best art house film I saw.
Berlin Cinemas, das Kinos, are an integral part of the festival, no matter how clichéd that may sound! Scattered around the city, they reveal to the visitor the per se history of Berlin! No man’s land Potsdamer Platz hosts now the most futuristic commercial complex in Europe, Kinos in the East remind to everyone the gloomy days of DDR, Zoo Palast depicts the glamour of the festival and Delphi welcomes the artsy audiences as home of the Forum. Yes, the theater will affect your perception on the film… Trust me on that!
Food is an essential part of the festival! Excluding the celebrities and VIP guests, the rest festival goers, professional and amateurs, hardly have enough time to sit in a restaurant as they run to catch one screening after the other. Dieter Kosslick got the grip of that and introduced this year the Street Food, a fair trade and delicious market for snacks! Potsdamer Platz food wasteland finally acquired a culinary identity and Cafe 9 served the best breakfast of the Berlinale: cinnamon focaccia and warm cappuccino!
The guys over at Cafe 9 might called Starbucks the devil, but when it comes to networking for non accredited visitors there was no other place than the big coffee table in the upper floor of the Starbucks in the Sony Center. Grab a sit, connect to the free wi-fi and chat with the fellow festival goers -accredited or not- while you write your daily reports to update you site, sharing your experiences! That is what Berlinale is all about!!