Independent cinema is in the best of health, says Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick, who is currently completing the competition line-up for the forthcoming 60th edition (February 11-21).

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily in a break between screenings, Kosslick notes: “On my travels this year, I have observed some interesting movements in the film industry: firstly, there are fewer big films and, secondly, many small independent films have emerged out of the crisis. This was something in both the US as well as many other countries, and this trend has proven to be well-founded with the films we have had submitted.”

He adds that this year he has received more submissions for the official selection from Scandinavia and the US; while the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund and the annual Talent Campus - which had applications from 145 countries this year – has also resulted in films from a wider range of countries being entered than in the past.

While Kosslick says he has received fewer entries from Latin American; the selectors for Berlin’s Generation sidebar, for children and young people, have made several “exciting discoveries” from that region. The programme includes Pedro González Rubio’s To The Sea (Alamar) from Mexico, which will compete in the for the Generation Kplus competition, and world premieres of Colombian film-maker Carlos Gaviria’s Portraits In A Sea Of Lies (Retratos En Un Mar De Mentiras) and Fabián Hofman’s Mexico/Argentina/Uruguay co-production, I Miss You (Te Extraño), which is also in the Generation 14plus competition.

Kosslick adds that the festival has been fortunate to be offered many films from the US majors for the next edition. He says: “Many people have forgotten that it was the major companies in particular who played such a part in the founding of the Berlinale in 1951, with Disney right up there at the forefront. We are now especially pleased that Paramount will be represented here with Shutter Island.”

Speaking ahead of completing the competition programme, he says that ”thematically, one can’t lump the films all together. There is an interesting mix with the most diverse of styles: genre films like The Ghostwriter and then many films about existential questions.

“In the past two or three years, there were films with big issues like globalisation or capitalist exploitation of the environment, but now we are going back to local subjects and what is happening on a more personal level. The filmmakers are more concerned with social changes in their immediate surroundings.  They are more about family and individual structures, and most of the films are political but only on a second glance.”

Dieter Kosslick would not be Dieter Kosslick if something special was not planned to celebrate the Berlinale’s 60th anniversary. Indeed, several initiatives and events have already been announced and others will be made public in the coming weeks. They include the retrospective of the Berlinale, curated by film critic David Thomson, a special DVD edition of 22 films from the past 60 years launched by the Süddeutscher Verlag publishing house, a photo exhibition of star portraits from past years, and a book on 50 years of the Zoo Palast Cinema with photographs by Christine Kisorsy.

In addition, the Berlinale will expand its venues to include ten neighbourhood arthouse cinemas in the city, including Charlottenburg’s Kant-Kino, Kreuzberg’s Moviemento, and Weissensee’s Toni, giving them the red carpet treatment with screenings of films from the festival.

“Our biggest challenge for this edition of the Berlinale is that at the moment we have a crammed programme,” Kosslick observes. “Everything had to be coordinated, for example, with the playing of ten additional cinemas and organising all of the guests for the retrospective.

“As far as the market is concerned, I am very confident about its success: the Martin Gropius Building is already full and our birthday offer [of a $143 (€100) discount on the cost of accreditation in two categories] definitely helped here,” he adds.

Meanwhile, asked for his view about the appearance of new markets which could potentially draw custom away from Berlin’s European Film Market, Kosslick struck a distinctly diplomatic note after getting into hot water after his outspoken comments about Rome and Dubai at the beginning of 2007 (ScreenDaily, January 10, 2007).

The most recent addition to the already overflowing market calendar is the Ventana Sur market in Argentina’s Buenos Aires, which received $358,507 (€250,000) support from the MEDIA International programme through a collaboration with Cannes International Film Market.

“A cannibalisation of the film markets is slowly taking place. This is something politicians must address since European tax money is being used.”