The Berlin International Film Festival—or the Berlinale as it is popularly called—is the largest film festival in the world after Cannes. Over 400 diverse and carefully selected films are screened at this carnival of world cinema over ten days. It’s a heady mix of binge-watching, business, glamour and parties. You can be sure it’s an experience you’ll never forget! What’s Up, Germany? takes a look at this fascinating event.
Founded in West Berlin in 1951, the Berlinale was the brainchild of Oscar Martay, a film officer with the US Army. It was through his initiative that a committee met in October 1950 to set up the international film festival. Recognising Martay’s contribution, the Golden Bear was awarded to him at the 1st Berlinale in 1951. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca was the first film to be shown.
Image : Wikimedia Commons
Initially, the Berlinale was a summer event, but it has been held in February since 1978. It has grown to become the second-largest film festival in the world. More than 400 films are screened over ten days—an unforgettable treat for film buffs, who get to watch the best of world cinema. With more than 300,000 tickets sold, the Berlinale has the largest public attendance than any other film festival. Over 20,000 professionals visit from 127 countries every year! The good thing is, unlike Cannes, which is by invitation only, the Berlinale is open to the public. In 2000, the festival’s main venue changed to the Berlinale Palast at Potsdamer Platz. The Boulevard of Stars, a tribute to German film and television personalities, was unveiled during the 60th Berlinale in 2010. The German film actress Marlene Dietrich was the first star to be honoured. The 62nd Berlinale celebrated 100 years of Babelsberg Studio, the world’s first major film studio.
Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Gillian Anderson,
Gurinder Chadha, Hugh Bonneville at the
The much-coveted Golden Bear is the festival’s highest award, which is reserved for the best feature film and best short film. The Silver Bear is given to the best director, actress and actor. As you can imagine, celebrities and movie stars make it a point to attend. Isabelle Huppert, Tilda Swinton, Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe walked the red carpet at the Berlinale Palast in 2018. A recent poll revealed that only one percent of the audience was there for the movie stars; 99 percent came for the eclectic offerings of international films and the vibrant atmosphere.
Another factor that makes the Berlin International Film Festival unique is the close link between the festival and the market. The European Film Market (EFM) is among the largest film trade fairs in the world. Held alongside the Berlinale, it attracts more than 500 companies and 9,000 professionals from 110 countries! Distributors, producers, buyers and financiers come to the all-important EFM to network and strike deals. Another event that takes place during the film festival is Berlinale Talents, a series of workshops and lectures attended by 250 young film-makers. How cool is that?!
The India Factor
Shah Rukh Khan rocks the Berlinale! Aamir Khan was part of the international jury in 2010. Through the years, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul, Ritwik Ghatak, Shyam Benegal, Mani Ratnam, Rakesh Sharma, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Imtiaz Ali and many more have made their presence felt at the festival. The year 2018 saw Qaushiq Mukherjee’s Garbage, India’s only official entry, in the spotlight.
The 68th Berlinale
Some movies to watch out for from the 2018 Berlinale are Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane (shot entirely on an iPhone); the Golden Bear-winning Touch Me Not; the Zellner brothers’ Western comedy Damsel; Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs; the single-take Utøya: July 22; and the Polish drama Mug. If you’re in Berlin in February 2019, don’t miss the Berlinale. Chances are you’ll make it an annual affair, because everyone falls in love with the Berlinale—and Berlin!