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Sunday, March 07, 2021

Screen at Berlinale 2012

High-wattage Hollywood glamour in addition to edgy film selections by young directors (exceptions notwithstanding) and of course an impressive array of festival partners this year,Berlinale seems to be getting competitive

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha |
February 13, 2012 10:32:19 am

Golden Moments

Around 300,000 sold tickets,more than 19,000 professional visitors from 115 countries,including 4,000 journalists: that’s some Berlinale trivia from the official website (for 2011).

Roughly divided into Competition,Berlinale Shorts,Panorama Sections,Forum,Generation,Perspective Deutsches Kino,Berlinale Special,retrospective Homage and Culinary cinema –it would be fair to say that Berlinale has a lot to offer to cinema lovers,what with its edgy,experimental,passionate offerings across sections.

Without bias,in the few films that I did manage to watch from the huge selection,experimentation and passion were evident in a majority but Berlinale,festival director Dieter Kosslick’s protestations notwithstanding,is clearly adding glamour and business to keep pace in the fiercely-competitive festival turf.

To quote Variety critic Jay Weissberg from an article,”It is interesting that there seem to be more young directors who are only presenting their second works. It could mean that Berlin may be trying to be more cutting-edge.”

Cannes,which is the market leader in terms of the business generated as well as glamour quotient,is likely to witness stiff competition in days to come — Berlinale 2012 had high-wattage star power—Hollywood A-listers Angelina Jolie,Brad Pitt,Jake Gylenhaal,Diane Kruger,Meryl Streep,Robert Pattison and Uma Thurman and perhaps a few more will be seen at the city’s Potsdamer Platz in days to come. A dash of Bollywood glamour with Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra was also added on for good effect.

The Cannes Festival’s budget amounts to approximately € 20 million (according to the website) while Berlinale’s budget last year as per the website,was € 19.5 million. Interestingly,this year in fact,Berlinale also has cosmetic giant L’Oreal (also a partner at Cannes) among its official partners besides BMW,Moet & Chandon,Tesiro,a leading Chinese manufacturer of luxury items,Hugo Boss and Glashutte (watches) among a host of others suggesting that the festival organisers have upped the ante.

The glittering red-and-gold trailer of the Berlinale 2012 announcing a bevy of festival partners and news of big deals for films across Europe and Asia and pretty much everywhere suggests that in addition to exceptional films,Berlinale also spells good business.

Hollywood entries

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal,a member of the festival’s international jury,was present at the opening ceremony and kept things really quiet thereafter. The media office turned down interview requ-ests calling it ‘near impossible’. Hopefuls however,continue to hang around Ritz Carlton for a sighting.

Angelina Jolie was in the papers much before she arrived. And when she did,almost everybody showed up for a dekko. The photo centre was packed as was the media ro–m-the patient ones sat through earlier press conferences to get a vantage view. And even after a zillion lightflashes,everyone was still clamouring for more. Truly the stuff international stars are made of.

Diane Kruger’s outing in Les Adieux A La Reine (Farewell My Queen),the festival’s opening film,has been much talked about. Kruger stunned at the opening ceremony in an elegant grey number along with her co-stars.

Meryl Streep,the recipient of a special honour for Lifetime Achievement at Berlinale is yet to arrive,but her film,The Iron Lady has already been earmarked by festival attendees as the film to watch out for.

Brad Pitt put in a surprise appearance to support partner Angelina Jolie and needless to say the media and the organisers were in a tizzy at the guest appearance.

Billy Bob Thornton with his film Jayne Mansfield’s Car,Christian Bale’s outing in Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers Of War Tom Hanks,Sandra Bullock in Thomas Horn and Max Von Sydow in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are a few Hollywood entries that have certainly got the buzz around them.

Star attraction

Angelina jolie’s film draws much media attention at Berlinale 2012

Outside it was freezing,however,inside the Grand Hyatt,the media headquarters for Berilnale,everyone was breaking into a sweat! Now if that isn’t star-power,what is? The said event that had everyone who was denied admission a little hot under the collar was the press conference for Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In The Land Of Blood And Honey which was screened at Berlinale 2012 (out of competition section).

Even before the star arrived,she graced the cover of an event publication on the best-dressed red carpet appearances. Soon after,the newspapers were carrying reports of her visit to Berlin’s Legoland with the kids!

A love story between Danjiel (a Serb) and Ajla (a Bosnian),shot in Bosnia with actors from the coun–ry-Goran Kostic and Zana Majanovic playing the –ead-and in Bosnian,was one of the most awaited films with the media keeping a hawk’s eye for shortcomings. The media screening was packed to capacity,though a few did leave even before the film was over. The film’s team turned out in full strength for the photo call and the press conference with Jolie in a conservative black dress leading from the front.

To be fair,Jolie pulls off a remarkable feat considering it’s not her personal story and the film is in Bosnian. What works though for the film is in telling a human story with all the quirks,drama and yet the real time pace that life moves at. There is very clearly an effort to not turn it into a Hollywood war film for which Jolie deserves a pat on the back. The film was even nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at Golden Globe.

Charges of a simplistic portrayal of a very complex situation — a brave scribe did pipe up with the question — were summarily brushed aside by the actor and her team. Jolie at the press conference did say that it was just one of the many stories of the Bosnia conflict and hoped that several other stories would be told of the situation. “Everybody interprets art differently. That’s how you see it…Clearly it was not the way it was intended.”

The actor also said,”Out of all films that I have made,it’s the one that means the most to me and is the most true to what I believe in. ”

She was extremely receptive to acknowledgment from an Italian journalist about the female gaze and voice that was evident in the telling of the story. On a lighter note,when asked what kind of meaningful assignment could she possibly take up next,she replied,” You mean my action films? I haven’t acted in the last two years but the next thing I am looking at is a film with Disney!”

Afterwards,there was an Angelina lookalike posing for photos at the Arkaden just across the Berlinale Palast. Clearly,Berlinale just can’t get enough of Jolie.

Bollywood entries

Shah Rukh Khan: Will he,won’t he? was the question festival organisers were constantly asking themselves of the Don’s presence at Berlinale 2012. Well,finally Khan did make it to the festival premiere of Don 2 and walked the red carpet clutching at his glove,the niggling cold be damned. His German fans,needless to say,were thrilled to bits and the festival organisers heaved a sigh of relief.

Farhan Akhtar: The director-actor-producer turned up to present his film along with co-producer Ritesh Sidhwani and Priyanka Chopra though his visit sans the leading man remained a low-key affair.

Filmmakers Anurag Kashyap and Rajkumar Hirani who were present for workshops under the Talent Campus,kept it really low-key in the early part of the festival.

Reliance Pictures was the only Indian biggie at the Market Forum. Others seem to be saving their dates for Cannes that follows.

Priyanka Chopra: Despite two stunning red carpet ensembles-a blue gown and the other a diaphanous white sari with a strappy number for company,Chopra did not get the high- wattage attention one might have expected. However,she did sizzle at the red carpet with her sexy attire,the freezing temperatures be damned. This is one actress who matched Hollywood step for step in the glamour stakes.

“We are honoured to honour Meryl Streep”

Dieter Kosslick (Festival Director,Berlinale) in an exclusive interview with Screen speaks of political statements,Shah Rukh Khan and the festival’s association with Meryl Streep

Dieter Kosslick seems to wear his responsibility of being director to one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious film festivals rather lightly. But appearances,particularly with regard to the astute Dieter,can be deceptive. The director who completes 10 years at the helm of the festival sits back in the Golden Bear Lounge to answer a few pertinent questions.

What is different about Berlinale 2012?

The difference is that outside of the festival itself,we have the biggest market in terms of business figures that have really grown important. Two-thirds of what we have is market premiere and new cinema. It’s also the tenth anniversary of our talent campus -believe it or not,thousands of filmmakers have been in Berlin for this. We also have a new programme called Residency that starts this summer. We invite a couple of filmmakers to stay here a few months and work on films that we release (later).

Why the choice of ‘Upheaval’ as the festival theme?

When you start a selection,you don’t know where it will end. As we went along,we saw a lot of films about these changes in the world,especially the so-called Arab Spring. We realised there are a lot of films even from other countries dealing with the same subject. Even the three German films that we selected had a connection. All films are about changes,in family,private situations or social situations wherein people want to go out and change. On one side,there are all these public changes and then also the private ones. We call it umbvich which means something has turned around. Like the opening film Les Adieux à la Reine (Farewell My Queen),which was about a big bang (the French Revolution) 120 years ago. We also had very young directors co–peting-for a lot of makers it is their second or th–rd film- ensuring that there are new people,not just the festival regulars.

What prompted the selection of Don2 ,which is not a festival film?

We have a long-standing relationship with Indian cinema in general since the last 50 years. In the last 10 years,we have done the first of its kind retrospective of “Bollywood films” so the relationship is pretty well-developed. and with Shah Rukh Khan who has visited several times and shot a film in Berlin,we were not going to let that chance slip. What better film than one with Shah Rukh Khan shot in Berlin to showcase at the Berlinale?

Would you agree that bigger films are replacing Indie films at festivals around the world?

My opinion is that yes,there are bigger films but there are also a lot of arthouse films with bigger movie stars or Hollywood stars. This is an interesting trend worldwide.

Is there an effort to woo Hollywood like an honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement for Meryl Streep,undoubtedly a very accomplished actress?

Meryl Streep and Berlinale have a long history and she already won an award a couple of years ago. We always thought,this is an actor who should win an award for Lifetime Achievement and then we saw The Iron Lady . It was a performance we have never seen in a biopic. And we are honoured to honour her.

How important is commercial success ( for a festival)?

It is very important to have good commerce and that is why I am so glad that the market has become so big this year. At Berlinale,the market is linked to the festival,unlike say,Sundance. However,I know that big deals are being done and the rights to the opening film has been sold for all over the world.

Which festival would you count as your biggest competitor?

The weather is our biggest competitor (laughs). Cannes is number one and we are not really competing.

Is Berlinale different in that it is,at core,political in nature?

From the very beginning,since 1951,Berlinale has been political because it was founded due to the political situation of the time during The Cold War when The Iron Curtain was in place. It was founded to get out of the isolation of The Cold War… To create friendship and understanding between different nations. We are still in solidarity with different voices from countries like Iran,China,Chad Vietnam,Cambodia and so on. If there are films with different voices,we will certainly show it and talk about it.

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