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Berlinale Bloggers 2018
It’s like coming back to your favourite cinema

Berlinale Palast
Berlinale Palast | © Jan Windszus via the Berlinale

Australian film critic Sarah Ward clearly caught the Berlinale-bug when she attended the festival for the first time in 2017. Because now it’s 2018 and she’s back in the German capital to cover all things film. But is it just as magical the second time around?

By Sarah Ward

Among the many signs affixed outside the Berlinale Palast, directing cinemagoers one way and those awaiting a glimpse of the red carpet another, one particularly catches the eye: “fan area.” It’s designed to keep anyone eager to see not the films, but Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Robert Pattinson or Isabelle, in the appropriate spot; however, it couldn’t better encapsulate the entire festival. Filled with thousands of film industry professionals and movie lovers (tallying up 496,471 theatre visits in 2017) Berlinale itself is one big fan area.


Here, at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, cinephilia floats through the air like snowflakes. Unlike the latter, which can evade February festival-goers, the temperature is always perfect for the former. It swirls as briskly as the cold breeze, enlivening the senses with its presence. It’s the sensation that attracts returning attendees to re-enlist for more back-to-back screenings, rushing between venues, finding time for pretzels and Glühwein, and spotting the Berlinale bear on every street corner.
Berlinale Bear Berlinale Bear | © Alexander Janetzko via the Berlinale
Doing just that at my second consecutive Berlinale is like coming back to my favourite cinema, just on a much grander scale (and with a much longer journey to get there). That’s what all good festivals offer: the feeling that you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but this film-filled cocoon, spending your time in darkened rooms, revelling at the projected wonders dancing in front of your eyes. That’s the emotional lure behind coming back.
Doing what I love, and my job, at one of the premier film festivals on the planet couches it in more practical terms. The strength and scope of programming, the efficiency with which the Berlinale runs, and the immersion in all things cinema that comes with it — from the red carpets to the panels to the press conferences — all make returning an easy choice. And, to expand on the feast of delights that is any film festival line-up, every year brings a new batch of gems. In 2017, I first fell in love with the best film of the year, Call Me By Your Name, at the Berlinale.


That said, if anything has changed over the past twelve months — apart from the specific features, obviously — it’s comes courtesy of a sad sign of the times that is increasingly infiltrating even this avidly cinema-loving realm. Berlinale may be filled with cinephiles, but in a sad reflection of the eroding appreciation viewers have for the process of viewing, the sanctity of the theatre as a hallowed space for watching movies is deteriorating.

Everyone wants to be at the festival, and everyone here is passionate about film, but the trend amongst audiences to use their phones during sessions — and even answering calls from their seat mid-movie — seems more entrenched.

 On a more positive note, the festival’s adoration of movies still buzzes louder than a phone on vibrate mode, and shines brighter than the glow of a handheld screen.