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Arena Arts Berlin: where culture- lovers scramble for tickets Credit: Ali Ghandtschi © Berlinale For ten nights in February, the chilly German capital plays host to one of Europe’s most popular film festivals with 300,000 tickets sold in 2012. Away from the big screens, however, film-lovers may be surprised to find themselves at the centre of one of Europe’s most thriving cultural hotspots T screened in Venice. The Golden Bear in Berlin is perhaps was Alfred Hitchcock’sRebecca.– BIFF as it was once known – was created as a cultural responseto the calamity of the Second World War. Opening the first festivalhe Palme d’Or at Cannes makes news. In one of the world’smost fabled cities, the Golden Lion goes to Best Film not quite such a headline-maker, but some great cinematic mo- In Cold War times, especially when the Wall was up, Berlin ments have nonetheless emerged from the Berlinale, the German would always struggle for the limelight against Cannes and Ven- capital’s annual film festival. ice (founded in 1946 and 1932 respectively). After the Wall fell, In the last decade and a half, Ang Lee’sSense and Sensibility the Berlinale, which is funded by central government (theBund), and Paul Thomas Anderson’sMagnolia are just two of the better- thrived comfortably for another ten years in the city’s west but known English-language laureates. Something’s always happening underwent a massive transformation when it moved in 2000 east- at the Berlinale, even though it takes place at such a low-key time wards to Potsdamer Platz: a stylish makeover for a new millennium of year. Berlin in February is very cold, and so it has been since the and a significant relocation for a festival then turning 50. festival, founded in 1951 in what was a very different place to what Potsdamer Platz is the agglomeration of high-rises and swanky it has become, moved its dates forward from mid-summer in 1978. architectural enterprise designed by the likes of Renzo Piano, Ri- Like the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Berlin International Film Festival chard Rogers, Helmut Jahn and Hans Kollhoff. Many Berliners say they don’t like it, but it’s certainly better than the death strip be- tween east and west (which is what the Cold Warplatz had been). Now the geographical hub of the Berlinale, the area abounds in super-comfortable cinemas with, at its heart, the flagship Berlinale Palast screening premieres over ten nights every February. The Berlinale’s director since 2001, Dieter Kosslick, is a mous- tachioed, loquacious Swabian. Even he admits that given a choice between eating lobster al fresco by the Mediterranean and tramp- ing through ice and slush and warding off flu, most sane people would opt for Cannes in May over Berlin. But as the joke-cracking chief of such a prestigious event, Kosslick can, rather charmingly, get away with this. In fact, he’s managed since he took over to turn this wintry jamboree into one of the most variegated film parties on the planet. The competition is always chock-full of stars. Recent red-carpet crowd-pullers have included Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Clive Owen and Angelia Jolie: mid-winter Berlin laps up glamour. Through the festival, and over ten sections, around 400 films can be seen by what is reputed to be one of the world’s savviest and, certainly in festival terms, most ticket-hungry, cinema publics. Kosslick has a lightness of touch and a genuine catholicity of taste, having introduced, for example, a mini-film school lasting the duration of the festival, called the Talent Campus, and an un- likely but popular section dedicated to the culinary arts in film. He’s been unapologetic about waving the flag for new German cin- ema. He’s also been shameless in inviting super-celebrity to Ber- Credit: Andreas Teich © Berlinale lin, including during one festival alone—in 2008—Madonna, for her directorial debutFilth and Wisdom, and the Rolling Stones, for Martin Scorsese’sShine A Light. Berlinale 2013 promises to be as upbeat as any in the last ten years, bringing as always festival glitter to the doldrums of Febru- ary. But does it end there? Berlin’s film festival is undoubtedly the The flagship Berlinale Palast is the geographical heart of the Berlinale biggest annual arts event in Germany: there is, however, much else 58 lwww.global-briefing.org first quarter 2013global


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