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Bicultural Urbanite Luke
Long story short

Opening night audience at interfilm Berlin festival
© Jana Legler / interfilm Berlin

When one thinks of film culture in Germany’s capital, it’s typically the Berlinale that springs to mind. But for cinephiles with a penchant for the short format, it’s another event that whets the appetite for cinematic magic each year.

By Luke Troynar

During my time living in Berlin, I’ve always been an avid Berlinale attendee. Each year in the lead-up to the festival, a bunch of my friends and I fire up the old Facebook thread where we discuss our top picks for the season and start planning which screenings to attend together. It’s a comforting mid-winter tradition that helps soften the brunt of the city’s coldest and darkest period from inside the cosy confines of cinemas around town. This year I was delighted to discover the spoils of a pre-winter film festival in Berlin that has, until now, flown under my expat radar: interfilm Berlin

Attracting more than 23,000 visitors, including a large number of international guests, interfilm may focus on small-scale productions, but it’s by no means a small affair. Founded in 1982 by director Heinz Hermanns, it’s the third-longest running film festival in Berlin and the city's largest festival dedicated to the short format. The opening night of the 6-day event saw cinemagoers from far and wide packed into the majestic hall of the Volksbühne.

A unique experience

One such film buff this year was Edoardo Brunetti, an international studies student from Melbourne completing a marketing internship with the festival. After holidaying in the German capital last summer, the 21-year-old Australian says he singled out Berlin for his student internship abroad because of its rich cultural heritage and comparatively cheap living costs. He also mentions its reputation for being an “incredible” city for young people to live in—a cliché he’s found to be a pleasing reality.

“No matter what your interests, there’s always something to do [in Berlin]….Melbourne can seem a bit sleepy in comparison,” he says.  Cinemagoers queue for tickets at this year's interfilm Berlin festival 23,000 cinemagoers were in attendance at this year's interfilm Berlin festival | © Lars Görlitzer / interfilm Berlin While this isn't Edoardo’s first time in Berlin, it was his first experience at interfilm, and he was “blown away” by the sheer number of accredited international guests, with filmmakers traveling from everywhere from Europe to Iran to China and Venezuela, a turnout he struggles to imagine at similar events in his hometown.

“Because of its location, cultural events in Australia often find it harder to attract international guests, and so often they tend to have a more Australia-centric scope,” he admits.

Curious curation 

Edoardo was also impressed by interfilm’s tight curation of 450 short films in 60 different programmes; he feels the festival’s thematic focus is one of the defining ways it showcases the short format. Grouped together around creatively titled subjects like “Human Absurdity” and “Passion or Pleasure”, each screening runs for roughly ninety minutes. This approach not only helps the festival appeal to a broad audience, but also allows it to tap into the unique power of short film. Edoardo Brunetti stands outside the Babylon cinema in Berlin Edoardo Brunetti stands outside the Babylon cinema in Berlin | © Private

“The format is really accessible,” reflects Edoardo, “and it enables filmmakers without a huge amount of resources to create film. For this reason you have a real diversity of content. You have stories which are unique and wouldn’t be told otherwise.”

While the 35th annual interfilm Berlin festival has wrapped up for 2019 now, along with Edoardo’s internship, it seems his departure back to Melbourne in December may only be a pause in a longer Berlin story. Festival organisers have informally discussed the possibility of Eduardo returning for next season, and he’s hungry for more challenges here either way.

“[Living in Berlin] has shown me some of the downsides to the city and given me a more realistic perspective than I’d previously had, but I’ll definitely be back,” he says.