Dieter Kosslick says Bela Tarr FIPRESCI prize could be a show of solidarity with Hungarian filmmakers; he also talks about challenges of digital cinema in regards to festival and market.

The Berlinale has always had a pronounced political dimension to its programming in the past six decades – especially when West Berlin was located strategically between East and West – but this year festival director Dieter Kosslick had initially wanted put less stress on politics.

“But we got into a situation where our selection made it impossible to avoid the political,” Kosslick said in an exclusive interview with ScreenDaily as the festival came to a close. “What I find interesting is that films like the Iranian film Nader and Simin: A Separation and Khodorkovsky were among those titles which were also popular in the market. Asghar Farhadi’s film [A Separation] was loved by the audience and the critics and has also sold well – it is seldom these things come together like that.”

In addition, at the awards ceremony for the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize on Friday night, Kosslick suggested that the award for a film from the Competition to Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse was also, in a way, a sign of support for filmmakers in Hungary in the light of recent government media policy there.

Film politics and the Berlinale have traditionally gone hand in hand, since the festival is the first major international event in the film industry calendar where professionals and policy-makers meet. The 2011 edition was no exception with the European film institutions and professionals rallying forces in Berlin to voice their support for a future MEDIA Programme.

Kosslick told Screen that he would be lending his support to the campaign to fight for MEDIA’s continuation and had spoken with European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou during her visit to the Berlinale.

“As the former president of the European Film Distribution Office (Efdo), one of the first programmes funded by MEDIA, I know exactly what the MEDIA Programme has achieved in Europe,” he said.

“Without the MEDIA Programme, the cinema-goers wouldn’t have learnt anything about the stories of their neighbours and this is an essential prerequisite for a real Europe of unity and cultural diversity,” Kosslick added.

In the festival’s last days, declarations of support for a future MEDIA Programme were issued by Europe’s national film agencies collected within European Film Agency Directors (EFADs) and by the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA).

Meanwhile, Kosslick admitted that changes in technology were confronting the Berlinale with new challenges. “We have a situation which other festivals share: that the festival and the market have films submitted in all kinds of different digital formats and that the proportion of these formats in the programmes is growing constantly. This goes for video formats as well as for the so-called D-Cinema [digital cinema].”

“Therefore, two years ago, we introduced a festival-wide server-based projection system for the various digital video formats, in order to find a way of dealing with these formats in a standardised way because they all look different on the screen and you have to find a way of presenting them in the best possible way with as little adjustments as possible in the projection setup.”

“Simultaneously, we all experienced the constant growth of D-Cinema in all areas of the business over recent years and with a special focus on 3D lately,” he explained. “This year, we had an enormous rise of D-Cinema projections, especially in the market, and what we had to learn is that, although D-Cinema is meant to be thoroughly standardised, it is in fact in a stage of pre-standardisation.”

As far as the future of the Martin Gropius Bau (MGB, in common parlance) as central market venue is concerned, Kosslick pointed out that “all of the contracts run until the end of my contract because I don’t want to prejudice what happens when I am no longer here as festival director.”

In response to some wild rumours circulating in the German press that he would step down after this year’s festival, Kosslick countered: “I didn’t have the feeling that I had been going through this year’s Berlinale harbouring thoughts about resigning, and that’s something my shareholders don’t want either.”

With tongue firmly in cheek, he joked that he would be prepared to take on the job of director of the Munich Film Festival (however, a successor has been found to follow Andreas Ströhl after 2011) and he would jump at the chance to be the successor to Thomas Gottschalk as presenter of ZDF’s Saturday light entertainment ratings winner Wetten, dass…??

On a more serious note, Kosslick recalled personal highlights from his 10th outing as festival director this year, ranging from the “frenetic applause” for Harry Belafonte after the presentation of the documentary Sing Your Song in Friedrichstadtpalast through the screening of the German film Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland to the world premiere of Wim Wenders’ Pina with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal President Christian Wulff both in attendance and sporting 3D glasses. 

“During the screening of The King’s Speech, I had to go with Helena Bonham Carter to the screening of Toast in KINO International, but my timetable was thrown out of kilter when I brought her back to the Friedrichstadtpalast to hear the applause for The King’s Speech because there were 25 minutes of standing ovations,” Kosslick recalled. “I could see in their faces some sort of surprise and explained that people aren’t used in Germany to standing up for standing ovations. Helena replied: ‘My dear, this was the longest standing ovation in my life with people still sitting down!’ That was a great highlight!”