Quality international television and VoD are on festival director Dieter Kosslick’s agenda for the Berlinale’s future.
Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily ahead of his 12th edition as director of the Berlinale (Feb 7-17), Kosslick explained that a new focus of the festival programme would be “to show those quality TV series which have caused quite a sensation internationally and have won prizes like Homeland at the Golden Globes.”
In the past, the Berlinale had presented television series by German filmmakers such as Dominik Graf’s In The Face Of Crime (Im Angesicht des Verbrechens) and the three Dreileben films by Graf, Christian Petzold and Christoph Hochhäusler.
But this year will be the first time that the festival has hosted the screening of an international TV series with the European premiere of Jane Campion’s six-part Top Of The Lake, with Holly Hunter and Peter Mullan, in the Berlinale Special sidebar at the Haus der Festspiele cinema.
In addition, Campion will participate in a discussion about TV at an event organised by the European Film Market (EFM).
“At the EFM, we also see that more and more people from television are interested in what is on offer at the film market,” Kosslick explained, “and this is a development which we would like to reflect in our programming.”
Potential for VoD
Meanwhile, the festival’s interest in VoD has been fuelled by the partnership recently forged with Samsung Electronics Germany and the creation of the Samsung Smartfilm Award for short films made on smartphones. The films by the six finalists will be shown during the Berlinale.
“There could also be the possibility of entering a strategic partnership with Samsung on a venture which we have been considering for some time since many of the films we show do not get distribution,” Kosslick remarked.
“If the rights-holders were prepared to sell the rights, one could imagine us working with Samsung on forms of digital online distribution: we would bring our curatorial skills to the table and they would provide the technology for digital channels”.
However, he stressed: “Our priority as a festival, though, is first to have the films shown in the cinemas and then to give them a chance to be bought at the market.”
“I don’t believe that the interest in people’s actual physical presence at the EFM will dwindle, but, funnily enough, on the contrary, it will continue to grow,” Kosslick continued. “Of course, there are vast changes in the way films and other materials are now being handled and presented, and VoD could be one part of this new market.”
“We have taken the momentum experienced by the EFM in the past three years to see how one can both position the market anew and also expand it further in the light of these new developments.”
Turning to this year’s programme, Kosslick noted that “there are many films which are so close to reality, you almost feel as they had been made yesterday”.
“For example, on the festival’s first Friday, we have Gus van Sant’s new film Promised Land, which is about fracking - an issue that is currently being discussed here in the Bundestag - and how the big corporations take the land away from small farmers for fracking.
“Similarly, Russian film Long Happy Life by Boris Khlebnikov shows what happened after the collective farms went into private ownership and became capitalist structures.”
Indeed, this year’s competition selection “shows really clearly that there are promising talents in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia. Also prominently represented are Poland, Romania, Bosnia, Russia,” Kosslick said.
“There are powerful subjects in these countries, which are handled impressively in cinematic terms. The biggest surprise in the selection screenings was perhaps that, for the first time in the festival’s history, we have a feature film from Kazakhstan, namely Harmony Lessons by Emir Baigazin, in the competition. And the strength of the ‘East’ is also confirmed in the Panorama, for example, with the Georgian debut A Fold In My Blanket by Zaza Rusadze.”
“US independent cinema also seems to be experiencing a new heyday,” Kosslick suggests, pointing to films like Fredrik Bond’s feature debut The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman – with German star Til Schweiger making his first ever appearance in the Berlinale Competition – and “veteran indie” Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, and adding that “James Franco, as one of the most active stars in the new indie scene, is present several times in the Panorama with films like Maladies and Lovelace.”
Apart from programming this year’s competition, Kosslick is also preoccupied by the debate about the dates chosen in future by AMPAS for the Academy Awards ceremony.
“There are two possibilities,” he argues. “Either the Oscars goes to the beginning of January, which could be good for us because then the films would all then be opening in the cinemas, or else they go back to March 23 where we would then have the old situation.”
“However, as things are now, it’s not a case of us not having any Hollywood films or stars,” Kosslick counters.
“Quite the opposite! In fact, I feel really happy with this year’s programme: it’s not a Competition without any risks, but, as one could see before, taking such risks has paid off in the past.”