‘Danny!’ a mass of people yells as a man enters a building via a side entrance. ‘Diego!’ someone exclaims as an actor takes his seat in a crowded theatre. At one of the biggest film festivals in the world, star spotting both on and off the red carpet outside of the Berlinale Palast is a regular occurrence. The buzzing atmosphere that comes with spying T2: Trainspotting’s Danny Boyle and Jonny Lee Miller on the street, or sharing screenings with Berlinale jury members Diego Luna, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Paul Verhoeven, however, is only part of the fun.
In just the first three days of the 2017 festival, The Dinner’s Richard Gere, Laura Linney and Steve Coogan have also joined the parade of recognisable talent, plus Final Portrait’s Stanley Tucci, Clémence Poésy, Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer. The list will only continue to grow, just like the lines snaking through Berlinale’s main venues at Potsdamer Platz. And yet, the festival sparkles regardless of the famous faces spotted within the crowds — including literally, thanks to the eye-catching lighting adorning the trees on Potsdamer Straße. Still, even without the ever-present twinkling in both the cloudy afternoon and inky night sky, Berlin glows with the love of cinema.
Any scepticism melts away
Watching on from afar, it’s easy for even the biggest cinephile to remain cynical about the international film festival circuit at a time of incessant social media reactions, constant streams of commentary, and awards predictions — plus backlash against instantly lauded features — long before the bulk of the world has even seen the movies in question. And yet, as eager film buffs and industry professionals rug up in subzero conditions, trample from venue to venue, and shelter next to outdoor heaters while sipping mulled wine between sessions, all that scepticism melts away.
Lighting adorning the trees on Potsdamer Straße. | © Sarah Ward
When the first major film festival was held in Venice in 1932, celebrating and showcasing the medium of the film was the aim of the game. All these years later — 67 since the Berlinale joined the festival fold in 1951, in fact — that intention still remains. And while access to cinema has only continued to grow with new technological advancements, a rise paralleling the increased ease of chatting about movies online, the distinctive feeling that emanates when people physically flock together to view, discover, enjoy, contemplate and discuss the latest (and hopefully greatest) the art form has to offer shows no signs of dying out.
Accordingly, at Berlinale, the sensations that shine brightest are affection and enthusiasm, irrespective of which well-known people might also be in the vicinity. Indeed, it’s an infectious sentiment that can be felt far beyond the festival’s central precinct. Wherever posters advertising Berlinale are spotted, so are people paying attention. Playing spot the bear — the festival’s endearing mascot — is a city-wide pastime, not only on advertising material and statues, but on merchandise such as bags, scarves and shirts that have seemingly spread to every person in sight. Spying someone flicking through a printed program or the festival’s smartphone app on the U-Bahn is also a frequent occurrence. From February 9 to 19, there’s no doubt about it: Berlin is positively radiant, basking in its adoration of the luminous silver screen.