Berlinale Breakfast “Bridges suddenly appear”

Many awards were conferred at the Goethe-Institut’s Berlinale Breakfast.
Many awards were conferred at the Goethe-Institut’s Berlinale Breakfast. | © Uwe Steinert

Arts and film people rub elbows and the aroma of coffee fills the air. Caroline Mutz from Arte Culture describes the Goethe-Institut’s Berlinale Breakfast as, “A lovely start,” with its “good cross-section of people that you don’t meet just anywhere and certainly not in one place.”

By Julia Teichmann

Secretary-General Ebert reveals the secret of the garden gnome. Secretary-General Ebert reveals the secret of the garden gnome. | © Uwe Steinert The mood is casual and informal for an award ceremony that is as original as it is congenial. Some important film awards that the winners were unable to accept in person at the festivals held abroad by the Goethe-Institut are now being presented to filmmakers by the festival directors. On the small stage, Johannes Ebert, the secretary-general of the Goethe-Institut, holds up a golden garden gnome and says with a wink, “At the end, we’ll reveal this fellow’s secret.”

A cinematic cultural dialogue

So, while the larger room next-door is abuzz, there is a charged stillness here. I catch sight of Victoria director Sebastian Schipper in the crowd and further to the left I see actor Florian Stetter and director Dietrich Brüggemann. A few minutes later, Stetter, who played Friedrich Schiller in Dominik Graf’s shimmering love story Beloved Sisters, stands in for his director on the stage, saying, “He’s busy finishing up his latest film (Verfluchte Liebe deutscher Film) because it’s going to be shown here next week at the Berlinale!”

Dea International Film Festival in Albania awarded Graf for his screenplay. “I am the happiest person on earth because I was able to make this film.” He travelled around the world for Beloved Sisters and Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross to China, Australia, Russia and is very grateful to the Goethe-Institut, he later explains, “Especially for the cultural dialogue: Bridges suddenly appear. The language of film is universal.”

Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the president of the Goethe-Institut, welcomes the guests. Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the president of the Goethe-Institut, welcomes the guests. | © Uwe Steinert Even at the Berlinale the Goethe-Institut promotes cinematic cultural dialogue. For instance, for many years as part of the Berlinale Talents Programme it has been inviting young critics from around the world to write about the films screened with the help of a mentor and to share with international colleagues in workshops. Oris Aigbokhaevbolo from Nigeria, one of the 2015 participants, reports about an incredible boost for his self-esteem. “I come from Nollywood, a film culture that is not very highly developed when it comes to film criticism. All of a sudden, what I do means something.”

Berlinale worldwide

Large crowds at the Berlinale Breakfast. Large crowds at the Berlinale Breakfast. | © Uwe Steinert Johannes Hossfeld, the newest head of the film department at the Goethe-Institut head office in Munich is particularly excited about one project. “Since last year, the Berlinale continues for the entire year with the Berlinale Spotlights,” he relates. The Spotlights are a film programme by the Berlinale that can be booked abroad, bringing the festival to people worldwide. Hossfeld personally is looking forward to the two films by the documentary filmmaker Philip Scheffner that will be shown at the Forum this year.

After getting a “satirical look at the real world” of the Coen brothers at their opening film Hail, Caesar!, Secretary-General Johannes Ebert is also looking forward to the new German films. For him, the film medium is most important at the present time in conjunction with social challenges. In 2015, the Goethe-Institut launched its Cinemanya project, packing 15 cases full of films for use in refugee accommodations, schools and cultural centres. They allow refugee children, with educational supervision, to see 18 German films for children and teens that have been either dubbed or subtitled in Arabic.

A related workshop for media professionals was held on the first Friday of the Berlinale. It focused on the current, pressing question of how displacement can be portrayed medially for children.

The latest theatrical and film project by the Goethe-Institut, Europoly, will also premiere its films at the Berlinale. The very personal and formally free shorts about “Europe in times of transformation” will be screened for the first time at Arsenal 2. On the Goethe-Institut’s webpage, thirteen journalists will report from the festival on the Berlinale Blog with international and multiple perspectives.

The best and most beautiful of all awards

Sebastian Schipper accepts his award. Sebastian Schipper accepts his award. | © Uwe Steinert On stage, Sebastian Schipper accepts the award for best direction for his two-hour, passionate tour-de-force journey through Berlin by night, Victoria, from Carlos Nuñez, the director of the Santiago Festival Internacional de Cine. Schipper raves, “People do this trip through Berlin at the other end of the world – and it means something to them!” He goes on to say that for a German filmmaker, travelling with your own films around the world gives you “self-confidence; it makes you strong” and raise “your awareness for the world that we come from and what stories we tell of this world.”

Are we forgetting something? There is one last prize and its winner, Baran bo Odar, gratefully says that it is “the best and most beautiful of all awards,” namely the award that he was given for his film Who Am I by the audience at the Festival of German Films that has been organized by the Goethe-Institut for many years in Australia. The Golden Gnome!