Source: Berlinale

Germany’s culture minister Claudia Roth has come under fire from 120 German film festivals for the cost-cutting measures forced upon the Berlinale for its next edition in February 2024.

The AG Filmfestival association, whose members include Filmfest München, Filmfest Hamburg, DOK Leipzig and FilmFestival Cottbus as well as the Berlinale itself, said in a statement that Roth’s ministry, the BKM, was sending out “a fatal signal” to the international film industry and weakening the German film industry by not providing sufficient support for such a large and important institution as the Berlinale.

The BKM had provided a one-off additional payment of €2.2m on top of its usual €10.7m funding to the Berlinale for its 2023 edition to alleviate the ongoing financial impact of the pandemic. But it has indicated it will only increase its support for the 2024 edition by €400,000 to €11.1m.

The association of festivals feared the decision by the Berlinale to slash the Perspektive Deutsches Kino and Berlinale Series sections could herald “a downward trend in funding policy that will pose an additional negative challenge to film festivals” from the Berlinale through to film events held in rural areas.

In a statement, the festivals argued there was an apparent general lack of interest in film festivals as a form of exploitation on the part of politicians. They described film festivals as “the first and often only institutions facilitating the visibility of important national and international film culture that are appearing less and less in commercial cinemas.”

The statement described the financial situation of all German film festivals as “dramatic”. All face rising costs of between 30% and 50% combined with an increasing reluctance from commercial sponsors.

They suggested film festivals should be included in the deliberations on the reforms to a new German Film Law (FFG) as had been stipulated by the ruling coalition government. “Without this essential building block, the new law - and thus an intact German film landscape - will be weakened in the long term,” the association said.

Future of the Berlinale

News of the programming cutbacks at the Berlinale has sparked a wave of speculation in the German media about the festival’s future as well as who will be heading the event after 2024.

There has been the suggestion from one quarter that the model of artistic director and managing director adopted by the Berlinale since the appointment of Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek in 2019 might revert to the previous arrangement of a sole festival director.

Rissenbeek is stepping down when her contract expires after the 2024 edition, while it is understood talks are ongoing with Chatrian to extend his contract beyond March 2024. 

Another suggested scenario could see the festival and European Film Market moving from its central location around Potsdamer Platz to the ICC international conference centre and the trade fair grounds in Charlottenburg. The festival’s contract with the flagship Berlinale Palast in Potsdamer Platz runs until 2027.