EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Berlinale festival director Dieter Kosslick.
The Berlinale’s greater emphasis on television this year should not be interpreted as the first step towards a German MIP, according to festival director Dieter Kosslick.
In an exclusive interview with ScreenDaily, Kosslick said: ¨We don’t want to make a MIP TV or MIPCOM, that’s as sure as day follows night and anything more would overstretch us.¨
He pointed out that that the Berlinale had had successful screenings of quality TV in the past with such productions as Dominik Graf’s Im Namen des Verbrechens, Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.
“We have now been working for the past two years on this programme which is composed of two parts: a series of discussions on new trends at the EFM and two days of drama series integrated into the festival programme and shown at Haus der Berliner Festspiele,¨ Kosslick explained.
¨We are opening up a new dimension to the Berlinale that is trend-setting: if this works out, we will definitely continue with the concept. At this point, the natural connection between the festival and this showcase is the fact that many of the directors and talents for these series come from cinema.¨
¨This development goes hand in hand with the fact that people now come to festivals for every stage in the creation of an audiovisual product whether it is to find partners, scripts, financing or contacts,” Kosslick added. “My goal at least for the next five years is that the market shouldn’t just grow as a market, but be seen in an economic and intellectual context with the festival. However, that doesn’t mean if you book a stand in the market that you will then get a slot in the Competition.¨
Turning to the particular challenges facing the organisation of the Berlinale’s 65th edition which opens on February 5 with Isabelle Coixet’s Nobody Wants The Night, Kosslick explained that, although the festival is now completely digitised with its own in-house fibre glass network, the digital era has its downside.
¨We have considerable problems when viewing the films once they have been submitted,” he noted. “We are allocated slots when we are supposed to screen the film” with the result that the producers or sales agents know exactly when the festival programmers are viewing the film and are then immediately in contact to see whether the film will be taken or not.
“Moreover, there are various technical formats which first have to be converted here before we can often see anything at all. In spite of all these technological developments, the submitting of the films hasn’t got any faster, they are entered even later rather than earlier.¨
Talent and von Trotta
According to Kosslick, the calendar at this time of year is exceptionally busy with the Berlinale competing with other events such as Sundance, the BAFTAs (on February 6) and the Academy Awards (Feb 22).
However, ¨as you can see from the last three or four years, the Berlinale hasn’t had any problems getting the talent to come to the festival. You can’t expect always the whole cast to come for each film, but we will have the directors and many of the cast members in Berlin to represent their films¨
Star names expected to pass over the red carpet this year include Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Helen Mirren, James Franco, Natalie Portman and David Oyelowo.
Another challenge could have been trying to persuade veteran German director Margarethe von Trotta to have her latest film The Misplaced World premiere at the Berlinale.
Von Trotta has never had the happiest of experiences with the German festival in the past: her 1982 film Heller Wahn was given a critical drubbing and The Promise, a love story between the two Germanies, did not fare much better when it was shown out of competition in the Competition in 1995.
However, in the end, it wasn’t too hard to convince her to accept a slot in the Berlinale Special sidebar at the Haus der Festspiele as she had been favourably impressed by this venue after attending the presentation of Volker Schlöndorff’s Baal there last year.
At the same time, Kosslick suggested in his interview with Screen that the Berlinale needed to add an award for documentaries to its line-up of official prizes.
The response to the First Feature Film Award, sponsored by GWFF, over the past eight years had shown how important the prize is for the festival and encouraged the Berlinale to accept the offer from Audi to create a short film award witg prize-money of €20,000.
Kosslick explained that the festival had made an analysis of festival prizes worldwide and found that almost €2m in prize-money is distributed to film-makers and said that the sums paid out were particularly important for international film-makers who find it difficult to finance their films.
While many column inches in the German press have been devoted to reports about Kosslick’s special Berlinale diet (no carbohydrates except for rice) and his computer-free office, the Berlinale also attracted its fair share of headlines when it became embroiled in the saga surrounding North Korea’s reaction to Sony’s The Interview.
Kosslick assured that Si Hong Ri, the North Korean ambassador in Berlin, that the film had never been considered for the Berlinale’s programme, and that it was pure coincidence that Sony will be releasing The Interview on February 5, the first day of the festival, in German and Swiss cinemas, as originally planned before the controversy blew up before Christmas.
The festival director spoke of a „misunderstanding“, although his comments in made in jest during an interview with the local newspaper Berliner Morgenpost could have contributed to the North Koreans’ outrage.
He suggested that Sony had perhaps timed the film’s release specially for the North Korean delegation attending the Berlinale, adding that „perhaps there will be discussion again about how North Korea could change the cinema of the future,“
At the weekend, Kosslick revealed in another interview that the North Korean delegation had now cancelled its visit to the European Film Market.
It remains to be seen whether The Interview will continue to occupy minds during the festival, for instance, when James Franco appears at the press conference and world premiere of Wim Wenders’ 3D film Every Thing Will Be Fine.
No Winds of Change
While the legendary German rock band The Scorpions will be presenting the world premiere of the documentary portrait Forever And A Day by Katja von Garnier in Berlin during the festival, there won’t be any winds of change for Kosslick in the future.
Kosslick’s packed schedule as festival director means that he isn’t likely to call by to the Kulturbrauerei on Feb 7 to jam with Klaus Meine and the boys.
But, more importantly, there aren’t any plans for any changes to Kosslick’s role at the head of the Berlinale.
In the last couple of years, there had been suggestions that the Berlinale might adopt the so-called „twin peaks“ model of such festivals as Cannes and Locarno with an artistic director working together with a festival president.
However, Kosslick revealed in an interview with Stuttgarter Nachrichten earlier this month that „such a dual leadership is not foreseen for the Berlinale in my new contract and probably won’t happen in the next four years.“
In addition to the previously announced recipients Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini, the Berlinale Kamera will be presented this year to the Russian film historian and curator Naum Kleiman and the film-maker Marcel Ophüls.
The distinction for Kleiman can be interpreted as the Berlinale’s sign of solidarity for the former director of Moscow’s Cinema Musueum who was replaced by a new director in summer 2014 by the Russian Ministry of Culture. The museum’s staff resigned en masse in the autumn in protest at the successor’s style of management.
Meanwhile, there was an added poignancy to the announcement of the award for Ophüls on today (Tuesday) when the German Bundestag remembered the victims of National Socialism in a special ceremony on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Ophüls is known in particular for his studies of totalitarianism and warfare in such films as Hotel Terminus, November Days and The Trouble We’ve Seen.
The previously announced International Jury president Darren Aranovsky will be joined in the choice of Bear winners this year by German actor Daniel Brühl, French actress Audrey Tautou, South Korea’s director Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer), Peruvian film-maker Claudia Llosa (Golden Bear winner La Teta Asustada), producer Martha deLaurentis (Hannibal), and US writer-director-producer Matthew Weiner (Mad Men).
Swiss success at Max Ophüls festival
Simon Jaquemet’s feature debut Chrieg is a late addition to the Perspektive Deutsches Kino sidebar as this year’s winner of the Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival in Saarbrücken last weekend.
The Hugofilm production will be shown as a special screening on the Berlinale’s final day, the Berlinale Kino-Tag, on February 15.
The film, which had its world premiere in San Sebastian last September and is handled internationally by Picture Tree International, also received the prize for the best newcomer actor for Benjamin Lutzke in the central role as the monosyllabic teenager Matteo.
Other Swiss films also found favour with the juries: three awards for Karim Patwa’s Driften - the Film Prize of the Saarland Prime-Minister, the Fritz Raff Screenplay Prize and the Ecumenical Jury’s Prize -, the Prize for the Socially Relevant Film for Andrea Staka’s second feature Cure - Das Leben einer anderen, and a Special Mention for Christoph M Saber’s short Discipline.
In addition, Marc Brummund’s debut feature, the youth drama Freistatt, which is based on true events in a Church-run borstal in the 1960s, received the Audience Award and the Youth Jury’s Prize, while Hubertus Siegert’s Beyond Punishment was named best documentary and Andrea Roggon picked up the DEFA Foundation’s prize for her portrait of the alternative German comedian Helge Schneider in Mülheim - Texas, Helge Schneider hier und dort.
Books at Berlinale success
The film rights of Jolien Janzing’s historical novel about Charlotte Brontë’s secret love in Brussels, The Master (De Meester), has been sold to the UK producer David Kelly by the Dutch publishing house AP/AWB.
The Master was pitched at Books at Berlinale during the festival’s Co-Production Market in 2013.
Kelly’s most recent production, Vera Glagoleva’s Russian-language costume drama Two Women, starring Ralph Fiennes and Sylvie Testud opposite a largely Russian cast, was shown last week at the Trieste Film Festival. (ends)