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Five cinephiles give their takes on the Berlinale

As the 70th Berlinale opens today, we asked Berlin cinephiles for their outlook on this year's edition. From hopes the fest will reestablish its relevance, praise for Panorama and concern over its environmental impact, here's their takes.


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Alex Billington, head of first­showing.net and regular film festival attendee.

The festival has to reestablish its relevance!”

“I’ve been attending the Berlinale for the past five years now, and it’s a well-run, well-organised festival. However, I feel that it has completely lost its relevance on the film festival circuit. It’s no longer an “A-festival”. I would say that Rotterdam and Sundance have taken the spotlight away from them in a big way. That’s because the Berlinale takes place in February, which is right after Sundance and before Cannes and South By South West, but they also really need to fit better films into their line-up. The last few years have been a bit disappointing. The new leadership either has to go big and bold, or take a step back and focus less on numbers and more on quality. I’m always glad I can attend the festival, but I think they have a lot of work to do to prove their relevance. And it won’t happen in a quick or easy way.”


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Marie-Louise Overgaard, avid filmgoer.

“Things can only get better!”

“I am very glad they’ve changed the festival director this year. I am curious to see what Carlo Chatrain will do with the festival. The last few years were honestly dreadful, so it can only get better! Maybe this way they will also get rid of the reputation of including so much second-rate cinema… I think moving the Berlinale until after the Academy Awards is a smart move as it puts some distance between it and some other noteworthy festivals. But above all, for me, one of the best things about the Berlinale is its openness to the public, that it’s a people’s festival.”


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Frédéric Jaeger, artistic director of Critics’ Week.

“The environmental impact is getting bigger and bigger!”

“I think it’s important for a festival like Ber­linale to work on change and to find a way to question its own structures. Hopefully that’s happening right now, but we don’t know how much the new curating team will be able to rethink the whole event. The festival scene is evolving super fast, and the Berlinale has had some very good ideas in the past to grow its influence, and it has always gone in the way of growing. The question is how much of this growing is actually possible to maintain. That’s also linked to the larger question of whether a festival can ever be environmental­ly friendly. It probably can’t – and the bigger it gets, the worse it is on this environmental level.”


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Photo by Delphine Millet. Mirjam Wienenkamp, co-founder and manager of international projects for NOISE Film PR.

It’s great the festival is so open to the public!”

“The Berlinale is definitely one of my highlights of the year. It gives me a lot of energy to see so many filmmakers being able to bring their films to audiences for the first time. And it’s such a loyal and engaged audience, too. I think it’s great that the films are open to the public and not just acces­sible for people working in film, like the film festival in Cannes, for example. But keeping those film professionals interested in the festival will be the next challenge. There is a lot of pressure on the new team of directors. The sentiment has very much been that the festival has become too big in terms of sections and number of films, which I have to agree with. That said, over the past years, I have attended the film festival in Locarno a few times, where Carlo Chatrian was the director before heading to Berlin – the selec­tion there really appealed to me: bold, dar­ing titles from around the world in competi­tion, complemented with bigger arthouse titles and film stars presented at public screenings. If what I have seen there is an indication of what the Berlinale is about to bring, I have very high hopes.”


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Elisa Rosi, head of program­ming at Lichtblick Kino.

Panorama has something for everyone!”

“I came to Berlin in 2002, so I’ve only ever known the Berlinale under Dieter Kosslick’s direction. His focus was on the red carpet and competition aspects of the festival; he thought what the audi­ence wanted was to see stars on the red carpet. Personally, I was never interested in that. But I will say that Kosslick was smart enough to let other sections grow as well, especially Forum and Panorama. I’ve always enjoyed the Panorama selection, which focuses on engaging and political films. As a programmer and as an audience member, there is so much to choose from in this section, from the international hot stuff to the lesser-advertised discover­ies. There’s something for everyone! The departure of Wieland Speck [former head of Panorama since 1992] was a blow, but he planted good seeds and now the cards get reshuffled.”