MADE IN BERLIN: achtung berlin - new berlin film award
My last post shed some light on Berlin as the birthplace of German Cinema. One hundred and twenty-five years after the Skladanowsky brother’s Wintergarten program, the annual achtung berlin - new berlin film award continues to shine the spotlight on films made in Berlin.
By Daniel Chaffey
Home to the world’s largest film festival, the Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin (die Berlinale), Berlin is the center of Germany’s film festival world. With the Berlinale’s massive scale, focus on international programming, and hosting the European Film Market, German film productions—even films made in Berlin itself—can get lost in the Berlinale’s shadow.
Founded in 2004 by film curators/cultural managers Sebastian Brose and Hajo Schäfer, achtung berlin showcases roughly 80 current films, from the more than 300 films produced in Berlin and Brandenburg annually. Highlighting the creativity and talent of the region, only films that are either produced or directed by a Berlin-Brandenburg-based filmmaker or were shot on location in the region are eligible to be included in the festival’s program. To the festival team, providing a space for filmmakers and talent living and working in the region to meet, network, and develop new projects is just as valuable as the film program itself. Such a platform, according to Brose, was something that was missing from the Berlinale:
“As a Film city, Berlin became more and more important in the early 2000s. But, at the Berlinale, fewer and fewer German films that were made in Berlin were part of the festival and Berlin-based filmmakers had little time to meet among themselves and exchange ideas. From this, the idea to create a showcase of Berlin films and filmmakers was born.”
As for the films themselves, Brose emphasizes that “Young German film cinema is important to us. We’re on the lookout for new perspectives, viewpoints, and narrative forms – the unusual/strange and new interest us…” The festival’s four main competition sections (feature-length, documentary, medium length, and short film) all award coveted cash or in-kind prizes essential to supporting the winners’ future projects. Additional special categories, a retrospective series dedicated to a current socially relevant topic, and numerous workshops, panel discussions, and networking events complete the festival. More than just an industry-focused festival, achtung berlin has also presented special showcases abroad, including in Los Angeles in 2017 to commemorate fifty years of the sister city partnership between Berlin and Los Angeles.
After fifteen years, achtung berlin is Berlin’s 3rd largest film festival and an important fixture on the city’s cultural calendar. Unfortunately, as Germany’s cinemas closed down this spring, Brose and Schäfer were forced to reschedule the sixteenth edition of achtung berlin for September. Ever the champion of Berlin filmmaking, the festival team arranged for free online streaming of “hidden gems” from the last fifteen years of achtung berlin. 15 Years of achtung berlin • The Online Retrospective was launched this May thanks to the festival’s long-time partnership with the Berlin-based film distributors, UCM.ONE. Available worldwide, and often with English subtitles, the retrospective is another example of the festival’s commitment to sharing films from Berlin with the world.
As for the future of the cinema-going experience, Brose sees great potential but also sees room for change. “For us, the future of the cinema is lively…but must continue to adapt and be open to new forms of film-presentation.” The coming months will influence how the festival will be presented in the fall, but no matter what, Berlin will be in the spotlight.