The 59th Berlinale, February 5-15, 2009, was a huge success in many ways. It has always been a popular festival for cinema lovers with no professional connection to film. This year a record 270,000 tickets were sold. At least 20,000 film-affiliated attendees were accredited from 136 countries of which Currents Magazine sent Shelly Schoeneshoefer, Birgit Schrumpf and Becky Tan. Their reports will also appear in www.awchamburg.org and www.kinocritics.com.
There were 383 films in 1238 showings. We watched more than 50 of them and attended over 25 press conferences (where the same old dumb questions such as “How do you like Berlin?” and “Who is your newest lover?” were asked and actors, such as Renee Zellweger, who were fed up with such silliness responded with “I think I’m going deaf.”) Films showed in 16 cinemas throughout the city, although half were conveniently located at Potsdamer Platz. This year the Berlinale acquired 1895 additional seats by taking over the Friedrichstadtpalast. Since we are discussing statistics, let’s mention the 4000 bags and the 2000 T-shirts sold.
Films showed in many categories, e.g., competition, special, young people, children, new German and Panorama (films which are also top notch, but didn’t make it into the competition). The group of Retrospective films showed under the motto “70 mm, Bigger Than Life” with such old favourites as Mutiny on the Bounty and West Side Story. For the 23rd time gay films competed for the Teddy Award. According to festival boss, Dieter Kosslick, “The Teddy Award was never just a film prize; it was always also a political award with the aim to increase visibility for LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual or trans-identified) lifestyles and for the emancipation of the minority.”
This year also saw in change in the Talent Campus. Whereas in the past only young, striving attendees of the Talent Campus were allowed into the lectures, this year we could attend such events as a talk with Tilda Swinton or critic Derek Malcolm. Swinton was the head of the main jury which also included Swedish author Henning Mankell and American director Wayne Wang.
Maurice Jarre received an honorary Golden Bear for his life’s work. Little did we know that this productive life would soon end. Jarre died just 42 days after the end of the Berlinale in his home in Los Angeles.
Dieter Kosslick: The Berlinale can be proud to have him as its fearless leader. His career started in Hamburg where in 1979 he established the Hamburger Filmbüro e.V. In 1986 he started the European Low Budget Film Forum in Hamburg with Kino auf der Alster which featured – at the time – unknown directors, of whom many are successful today, e.g., Derek Jarman, Stephen Frears and Lars von Trier. He simply grew too big for Hamburg; Berlin is the lucky winner.
The Berlinale is a never-ending topic. See for yourself in 2010 when the Berlinale will celebrate its 60th anniversary, February 11- 21. Everyone is welcome to attend.