BERLIN 2000: The "It" Spot, A Look Back at American Indies in Berlin
by Eddie Cockrell
(indieWIRE/2.15.2000) -- John Waters did it, and so did Jennifer Fox and Haile Gerima. Jennie
Livingston's done it, as have Spike Lee, Aviva Kempner and Luis Valdez.
Martha Coolidge, Amos Poe, Brian De Palma and Alexandre Rockwell were
among the first to do it, while Katya Bankowsky, Gregory J. Lanesey and
a host of others are doing it this year.
"It" is certainly no secret: long before Sundance, Toronto and
Rotterdam, the Berlin International Film Festival, celebrating it's 50th
anniversary this week, staked a claim as the most Amerindie-friendly
confab on the planet, a 12-day bazaar of buying, selling and screening
that has very often not only been a terrific platform for sales and
media in Europe and the world, but a much-needed balm for the soul of a
struggling American filmmaker. Berlin audiences love Hollywood movies,
to be sure, but they respond with even more
fervor to movies produced outside the mainstream. As the directors above
would probably tell you, taking a film to Berlin is, in every sense of
the word: "it."
In the very earliest years of the festival, prints of studio fare like
Mark Robson's "Bright Victory" and George Stevens Jr.'s "Shane" were
flown in on U.S. military planes. By the early 1960's, independently
produced and now sadly obscure titles such as Wesley Ruggles Jr.'s
Asian-themed "Out of the Tiger's Mouth" and George Axelrod's "Lord Love
a Duck" (just out on tape and worth a rent) appeared alongside John
Ford's "The Sun Shines Bright" and, believe it or not, Norman Jewison's
"The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming."
In 1969, two of the films in competition were John Schlesinger's
"Midnight Cowboy" and Brian De Palma's "Greetings" (which won a Silver
Bear). In 1973, Steven Spielberg's "Duel" was shown, and 1978 saw the
first Berlin screenings of Martin Scorsese's "Italianamerican" and John