Berlinale director discusses ticket sales, VOD platforms and the spirit of ‘Baumi’.

The 65th Berlinale (Feb 5-15) will be remembered in many respects as a Berlinale in the spirit of ‘Baumi’“, according to festival director Dieter Kosslick with reference to the late producer-distributor Karl ‘Baumi’ Baumgartner.

Speaking to Screen as the festival enters its final days, Kosslick recalled that “many of the films shown this year reflect his philosophy: ‘Baumi’ was the pioneer of those so-called ‘little’ films which make a really big impression, and he was a great inspiration for so many film-makers through his co-productions.“

Indeed, as just one example, Malgorzata Szumowska, whose latest feature Body is showing in the Berlinale’s competition this year, said during the goEast Film Festival that Baumgartner – who died at the age of 65 in March 2014 - had been the guiding inspiration for her career as a film-maker.

It is therefore fitting that this year’s Berlinale edition provided the setting to announce the creation of a Script Development Award in his memory (see below in Berlinale Briefs).

Berlinale goes VoD

The Berlinale is now exploring the potential of video-on-demand through the launching of the WCF On Demand platform which is created with support from the German Federal Cultural Foundation to celebrate 10 years’ existence of the World Cinema Fund (WCF).

Faouzi Bensaidi’s Death For Sale, Paula Markovitch’s The Prize, Raya Martin’s Independencia and Emir Baigazin’s Harmony Lessons are among ten films selected for the platform’s initial test phase.

Each title – which was either supported by the WCF in the production or distribution phase – can be accessed via television, computer, smartphone and tablet for 48 hours, with the price depending on the subscriber’s geographical location.

Subscribers in the EU will pay €3 to watch a film, and those in the so-called DAC list of low- and middle-income countries only €1.50.

The technical side of the VoD player – - is being handled by Cologne-based Rushlake Media which was set up by Philipp Hoffmann.

“The important thing is that this service is of some benefit for the film-makers,“ Kosslick said. “It’s not that we are wanting to make money from this venture ourselves.“

He also stressed that moving into VoD did not mean that the Berlinale would be following Tribeca Film Festival’s lead and streaming films from the current festival programme online in the future.

Ticket dilemma

Kosslick revealed that ticket sales at this year’s edition had already reached a new record at the beginning of this week with 10,000 more tickets compared to the same time last year. This was thanks in no small part to the revival of the Forum’s previous venue at the Akademie der Künste in Hanseatenweg, and the full integration of the Zoo Palast screens.

“There aren’t any more tickets available for sale, and seats are only empty when accredited guests don’t turn up [after having collected a ticket for a screening],“ he explained. “We’ve also been selling more tickets in the Kiez Kinos in other parts of Berlin and the Culinary Cinema travelled to Kreuzberg this year for the first time with screenings in the Eiszeit Kino and a dinner in the Markthalle Neun.“

“But there is something of a dilemma with tickets: we can’t increase the allocations for the accredited professionals because then the number of the no-shows would rise and we wouldn’t have tickets for the paying public. I’m not really happy with the ticket situation, but it’s difficult to see what the solution could be.“

On the warpath

Meanwhile, Kosslick levelled renewed criticism at the organisers of the Cinema for Peace gala which was held in Berlin last Monday evening.

“They are starting to damage our reputation because people think that it has something to do with the Berlinale. We get mails asking why we have such a chaotic event at the Berlinale, but it has nothing at all to do with us!“ Kosslick declared.

“The organisers should find another place and leave our stars in peace because all they do is grab them ‘through the back door’ once we have programmed their films.”

Berlinale Briefs

Baumi Script Development Award

Martina and Sandra Baumgartner, Pandora Film and the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW have joined forces to launch the € 20,000 Baumi Script Development Fund in memory of the producer-distributor Karl ‘Baumi’ Baumgartner who was presented with the Berlinale Kamera by festival director Dieter Kosslick and film-maker Aki Kaurismäki in February 2014.

German and international screenwriters, who have had at least one of their scripts previously filmed, will be eligible to submit treatments in English.

The first award will be announced during the 2016 Berlinale after a decision is taken by a jury made up of the Award’s initiators and an internationally renowned director.

Age of Cannibals wins over German critics

Johannes Naber’s Age of Cannibals (Zeit der Kannibalen), which premiered at the 2014 Berlinale, was the big winner at this year’s German Film Critics Awards, picking up the honours for Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay and Best Actor.

Dominik Graf’s 2014 Berlinale Competition film Beloved Sisters (Die geliebten Schwestern) took home the trophies for Best Editing and Best Score, while André Schäfer’s Deutschboden was named Best Documentary and director Philip Gröning was the  winner in the category for Best Cinematography.

Other awards included the Honorary Award to the husband-and-wife team Ulrich and Erika Gregor, the co-founders of the International Forum of Young Cinema at the Berlinale.

Berlin - Tel Aviv

Directors Benjamin Cantu and Roi Werner have been selected for the seventh edition of the Berlin - Tel Aviv 3 Months 24/7 residency exchange by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and the Israel Film Fund.

Cantu, whose debut Harvest (Stadt Land Fluss) premiered at the 2011 Berlinale, will spend three months in  Israel to work on his new project, while Werner (2 Night) will come to Berlin this summer.

Werner’s stay in Berlin will be organised by the Nipkow Programm, with funding from the GWFF collection society and the German Federal Film Fund (FFA)