January 31, 2023

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Berlin Film Festival co-chairs talk raising profile of upcoming editions

5 min read

Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian and executive director Mariette Riesenbeck unveiled the main lineup for the 73rd edition of the fest on Monday, which marks the first physical edition in three years.

Berlin’s post-pandemic spirit is evident in efforts to lighten the lineup with more audience-friendly headlines, including several from the US, and up the glamor quotient while maintaining the strong indie vibe and political tone inherent in the fest’s DNA.

They spoke shortly after announcing the competition and encounter sections diversity About the challenges they are grappling with and the close relationship Berlin is building with the US film industry.

Going back to a fully physical version is definitely a big relief. But it is also a challenge. What were some of your main goals and concerns?

Riesenbeck: We see the festival partly as a platform for the German and international film industry So we wanted to make sure we could build this platform again. That was our big goal. The number of industry recognitions at this point is already very encouraging. We have rented out all the EFM market stands. So we are very excited about it. But the current situation in German cinema is a little different than it was in the pre-pandemic days. Not all of the audience went back to the cinema. The festival can be a great motivator to bring people back and that’s how we want it to work. But things have been slow. It now takes longer to achieve things: to sign contracts; Get the deal done. We have noticed that organizations take more time after a pandemic. They deliberate longer, they don’t make up their minds as quickly as they used to.

Carlo, I think it’s pretty clear that after the pandemic you need to have some lighter films and more glitz and glamour.

Chatrian: Yes, selections – especially pageants – are my most eclectic. We have a very wide range of films that come with different expectations and different tones and colors. It’s something I’m proud of. If you consider this year’s Berlinale a fresh start, it might as well start with the widest possible audience. So I’ve tried to put together a selection that will appeal to all audiences. But that doesn’t mean these films aren’t ambitious. On the contrary. A film can be audience-friendly and have great ambitions. And the best example of this is Steven Spielberg’s “The Fablemans”.

The same goes for the glamor aspect. After two editions at low capacity, essentially without any social or large gatherings, we wanted to boost that aspect as well. And fortunately we have been able to accomplish that with meaningful films. Sean Penn brings a very relevant take on Ukraine – a film [the doc “Superpower” that depicts the struggle between Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin] It says a lot about the role an artist can play at this time. We have another film, “Kiss the Future”, in which Bono and U2 play an important role, but it’s about the siege of Sarajevo. We have an opening movie [Rebecca Miller’s romantic comedy “She Came To Me,” starring Anne Hathaway, Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, Joanna Kulig and Brian d’Arcy James] It’s a comedy with a great cast that tries to give a different perspective on society, especially New York society. I’m glad we have big names, people we all love. But that’s what they’re coming for.

Talk to me about your efforts to secure more US films and talent. I know you went to LA last year.

Chatrian: The connection between the Berlin Film Festival and US cinema has always been very strong. But certainly in the last year – due to the pandemic and the festival calendar, which is increasingly focused on awards – this connection has not been as strong as before. So, as with our efforts to secure more glamor and more popular films, we have worked on it. That has been one of our goals. We are happy that we are starting with an American film and we have a great honorary Golden Bear [Steven Spielberg] and a very promising young glamorous jury president, Kristen Stewart. I’m also happy because along with the big important films – “Manodrome” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody, the strongest example of which we have in competition – we have Tina Sater’s first feature “Reality”. [starring “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus’” Sydney Sweeney]. And we have another US movie in Encounter, Dustin Guy’s “The Adults”.

I think we have a rich and wide range of films that represent the vibrancy of indie – and indeed, not just indie – American cinema. It wasn’t hard to accomplish because I think Berlin has a lot to offer these films. But much work must be done as the pandemic widens the gap between the US and Europe. And work needed to be done to reconnect towards art. But during my trip to Los Angeles, and also thank you [Berlin’s U.S. delegates] Jacqueline Lyanga and Ryan Werner, we realized that Berlin is still a very interesting festival. I’m not just talking about films, I’m talking about people in the industry as well. US financiers, producers, distribution companies will participate in the festival to promote their film selection and launch new projects.

Berlin has been rumored to be changing its position on the festival calendar to become more “relevant” in the past. How do you feel about the fest’s current calendar slot?

Chatrian: I feel that being at the beginning of the year offers opportunities, though of course there are some drawbacks. Berlin could be the place where things start to take shape with Sundance. We can also be the place to discuss future films. Where the next movie season might start. In terms of selections, I think this calendar slot puts us in a very advantageous position from which to promote new voices in cinema, and I think the selections reflect that. It is a good mix of established filmmakers and new voices. I really enjoy promoting talent that will become the new trend in the future. I’m trying to see this position as an opportunity rather than a downside. But there is a downside, which I cannot hide. It’s clear that a festival before the Academy Awards puts us in a different position than the other festivals held this summer

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