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Berlinale Chief Dieter Kosslick on Bringing Down Walls

Variety logo Variety 2/18/2017 Leo Barraclough
© Provided by Variety

As the Berlinale draws to a close, the film festival’s chief Dieter Kosslick observes with satisfaction that the event, once again, served as both a showcase for outstanding movies and a soapbox for political views, including opposition to the policies of President Donald Trump. “It was a classic Berlinale,” he told Variety.

Referring to Trump, Kosslick said: “The guy has caused an international wake-up call, so we are all alert now to what is going on.” Kosslick welcomed the “pop-up demonstration” – a flash-mob – that took place next to a section of the Berlin Wall close to the European Film Market venue, the Martin-Gropius-Bau, in support of Mexican actor-director and Berlinale jury member Diego Luna, who had remarked during a press conference that he wanted to tear down walls.

Kosslick also mentioned other protests during the festival, such as the Romanian film professionals’ expression of their opposition to their government’s proposed softening of anti-corruption laws, and the protests in support of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, whose is imprisoned in Russia.

“Everyone has been using our red carpet as a kind of Hyde Park Corner, and I’m happy with this,” he said, referring to the area in London where speakers share their political views with the crowd. “We want to be on the right side of the world,” he said.

Despite everything, Kosslick said the mood at the festival was generally upbeat. “There’s a lot of energy in the place,” he said. Many of the films contained “a dose of humor, and a dose of hope,” he said, picking out Aki Kaurismaki’s “The Other Side of Hope” as an example.

One area of interest was in the long-lasting effects of colonization, seen in films like Gurinder Chadha’s “Viceroy’s House,” and James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z.”

Kosslick said that concerns regarding “fake news” had provoked a reaction among people to redouble their efforts to reveal the truth, and filmmakers were playing their part in this. He added that the festival sought to cater for the intellectual side of filmmaking and life in general in the many onstage talks and panel discussions.

Kosslick said the festival was unable to grow in size as it already had some 400 films and 10 sections, and wasn’t able to fit in any more screenings. He prefers to see it as not one festival with 400 films, but as 10 festivals with 40 films each. “We run each one as its own festival so nobody feels lost,” he said. “We want everyone to quickly feel like they know what to do and where to go.”

Kosslick said he sought to constantly improve the “service” elements of the festival, including the use of modern technology, to make the experience as enjoyable and easy as possible. “We’ve tried to make it a feel-good festival,” he said.

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