Kosslick Considers Festival and Market Changes as 54th Berlinale Nears Conclusion
by Eugene Hernandez
Despite concluding a multi-year process of streamlining and re-positioning the Berlinale since taking the helm as festival director, Dieter Kosslick is facing new challenges in light of the American Film Market moving to the fall and the Oscars shifting its dates into February. Yet, after leading the Berlinale for three years now, festival director Dieter Kosslick is feeling a sense of accomplishment as he ponders future changes here at the Berlin International Film Festival.
"We had to start all over again," Kosslick said Thursday morning during a conversation with a small group of journalists at the Grand Hyatt in Potsdamer Platz. He was referring to the fact that after moving the festival from the west to the center of the city four years ago, festival organizers were forced to focus on restructuring the event. It was a move that pre-dated Kosslick's arrival at the event, but one that continued as he took the reigns.
Among the decisions now facing Kosslick is whether to shift the festival's dates as a result of the earlier Oscars, given that awards contenders often launch their European campaigns during the festival giving the Berlinale star power and media attention. Kosslick, who says he is studying a date change, admitted that the Oscar move affected this year's Berlinale, "It had some impact, especially on the first night," he said. As for what will be done, Kosslick will only assure that the event will remain in February.
"Big picture, we have to decide for next year and 2006 if we will move the dates -- we may move backward or forward."
"The festival was founded with the idea to break the isolation of the Cold War in 1952 and 53," Kosslick said Thursday, adding that in that sense, "This has always been a kind of 'political' festival, I use that term in quotes."
When asked about the function of the event today, Kosslick told indieWIRE, "The function is first of all that people can see the best films of the year in competition [and] to be a showcase for independent films, secondly you have to make business here, this is market, third, with the business not only buying and selling, you must find partners for your next project -- young people must have a chance to get a door open in the business."
"This is a now the political function," Kosslick emphasized, "It is not left or right."
"From my side the re-positioning of the fest after three years is done," Kosslick explained, "For me the festival has four legs, like a chair," Kosslick added. The first, he said is to show movies, the second is to have a greater connection to the German film industry by showcasing German artists and all sections of the event, the third is to invest in young people in the film business, and the fourth is the market." That's that leg that he is now planning to examine.
"My task to re-position the Berlin Film Festival is done, [now there is] the market part, we have to stop and we have to think about completely different initiatives." The challenge comes with the American Film Market, a traditional February event, moving to November in Los Angeles, competing with MIFED here in Europe in the same season. Yet to be seen is what impact of the move will have.
"We are waiting to see what happens with MIFED," Kosslick said, with a decision on the future due next year, but he added that he has money to tap for the bolstering of the European Film Market. "If we need a million Euro we will have a million Euro, to create a different type of market," Kosslick said. "The market issue is a very important issue."
Over at the European Film Market, which runs concurrent with the Berlinale in Potsdamer Platz, buyers are looking ahead to the American Film Market in Santa Monica, CA later this month and pondering how the winter market season will change next year.
Annakarin Strom of Trust Film Sales from Denmark told indieWIRE that she and other sales agents have yet to decide whether they will embrace the AFM or MIFED this fall. While over at Celluloid Dreams, departing sales head Pierre Menahem says that the company will go with the majority. "We'll go where everyone goes," he said.
Sellers are certainly not thrilled with MIFED venues, but some expressed concern that by abandoning the European event, smaller buyers from smaller companies will be left in the cold. One seller said that while a change is worth considering, the seller added that AFM must also prove itself a worthy alternative.
Strom told indieWIRE that the European Film Export Association (EFEA), a group that represents the major sellers on this continent, will be meeting soon to decide how to handle this fall's market season. A decision is expected by Cannes.