Why Berliners love the Berlinale
Alexanderplatz, 9 a.m. Thursday 9 February 2017. We are sitting on a train on the U2 line towards Potsdamer Platz. Normally, all of the passengers would be looking into their mobiles. However, a gentleman next to us is reading a newspaper. The page is open on an article entitled “The most eagerly awaited stars in Berlin”.
We stop at Klosterstraße. A man and a woman get on, both of them clutching a Berlinale programme. Behind them, a boy is speaking on his phone. Around his neck is a Berlinale badge, the same one which we are going to pick up from the Hyatt Hotel and which at midday will get us into the vast 1,600-seater Berlinale Palast to watch Django, the opening film. Indeed, the journalists get to see the films before everyone else. The general public can enjoy them just a few hours later, with the added bonus of being joined at the screening by the director and cast.
The Berlinale gives something backAlthough Venice is the oldest festival in the world (1932) and Cannes is the most glamourous (50% of the budget is covered by private sponsors), Berlin is decidedly for the people. After all, this was the reason behind its creation back in 1951, when Oscar Martay, a US army officer, decided that investing in cinema was the perfect way of breathing life and civic pride back into the city and its citizens. The festival is first and foremost for them. Between three and five screenings are scheduled for each film. Cannes is invitation only, and at Venice, due to the limited number of screens available, the maximum number of screenings of any film is three. In Berlin, some people are willing to camp out in tents at the points of sale (the most crowed being at the Arkaden in Potsdamer Platz) to make sure they get a ticket.
Berliners love the Berlinale and once again the festival lives up to expectations with over 400 films being shown from all the categories (Competition, Shorts, Specials, Culinary Cinema, Forums, Generational, Panorama, German Cinema Perspective [‘Perspektive Deutsches Kino’] and Classics). What are the most eagerly awaited films? The Other Side of Hope by Aki Kaurismäki, Trainspotting 2 by Danny Boyle and The Lost city of Z by James Gray. In terms of stars: Penelope Cruz, Robert Pattinson, Hugh Jackman and Sienna Miller. The head of the jury is the Dutch Director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall). The Golden Bear will be awarded on 18 February, but the Berlinale will carry on afterwards with a day specially dedicated to the general public when over 30 screens throughout the city open at the same time. It is hard to beat.