Source: BKM

Tricia Tuttle

Berlinale festival director Tricia Tuttle has emphasised feature documentaries will stay a core part of the festival programme despite the launch of Perspectives, an international competition only for feature-length fiction debuts. 

It was announced this week that Perspectives will replace the Encounters competition, introduced by Tuttle’s predecessor Carlo Chatrian, which was open to innovative fiction and doc features.

“Documentaries remain integral to the Berlinale,” Tuttle insisted.

She pointed out the festival has run a best first feature award, for which documentaries have never been eligible, “for 19 years, since 2006”.

Of the of rationale behind bringing feature-length fiction debuts together in Perspectives, she said: “What we want to do was have a focal point for [the best first feature] because the nominations get a bit lost.”


Source: Berlin International Film Festival


Tuttle also made it clear first fiction features and first feature documentaries can also “screen anywhere else in the festival from Competition to Panorama to Generation and Forum.”

However, some within the international documentary community are expressing concern at the shake-up.

“With these changes, opportunities for documentaries have been cut down significantly,” suggested a spokesperson for advocacy and lobby group Documentary Association of Europe (DAE). “Encounters, which made space and respected creative non-fiction filmmaking on the same level as narrative film, which had three awards to give, has been replaced with a fiction-only competition that now has the already-existent debut prize as the main award.”

The spokesperson continued: “Despite limited market opportunities during the EFM for documentaries with the cancellation of the Doc Salon in 2022, it seems a pity to further reduce the attractiveness of the Berlinale for our sector. We are open to dialogue of course with the new leadership, but with the current attacks on free speech and political discourse across the world, it is disappointing to lose these important acknowledgements of our films.”

A separate Berlinale award for the best documentary film was launched in 2017 with prize money of €40,000 to be split between the director and producer. The festival recently lost its documentary award sponsor but Tuttle has confirmed it will maintain the award - and the prize money.

“There are no fewer opportunities for documentary than there were last year. We are still going to have the same number of feature films across the festival. Even without the Encounters strand, documentaries will still have a prominent place,” Tuttle said.

Feature documentaries have been increasingly prominent in the festival’s main competition in recent years. The 2024 Golden Bear, the festival’s main prize, went to Mati Diop’s Dahomey and the 2023 Golden Bear also went to a documentary, Nicolas Philibert’s On The Adamant.

On The Adamant

Source: © TS Production / Longride

‘On The Adamant’

One grey area in the new Perspectives strand is hybrid titles that straddle fiction and documentary. “We haven’t published the guidelines yet but there are films that are hybrid films that use fiction elements. That is going to be at our discretion, to put those in [to Perspectives]. It will be a conversation also with the intentionality of the filmmakers about whether they are right for that award,” said Tuttle, who took over as festival director in March. 

The next Berlinale will take place from February 13-23, 2025.