The Programming Of Ulrich Gregor
by Scott Saunders
Two days ago I talked to Ulrich Gregor, Director of the International
Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival. The Forum is known for its
often adventurous programming of "difficult" films. While the
Competition focuses on films with the greatest commercial potential,
Gregor attempts to program the Forum from his own unique point of view.
While not everyone agrees with his selections or his own personal
criteria, he's a man with great influence and a very strong idea of what
film should be. While I wait for him to talk with me he easily shifts
from German to English and to French as he deals with the administration
of the festival. He's as international as his programming.
"I want to show films that reveal how the landscape of cinema is
changing and expanding." The Forum is a kind of sprawling survey of
this landscape. "I want to be able to see the unique handwriting of a
filmmaker. I look for the difficult or unusual," he says. He is also
attracted to films of great length or films that are extremely short.
Gregor once programmed a film called "The Signature," which is 10
seconds long. "This gets at the question, 'How short can a film be and
still be a film?'"
The films he's most interested in this year are several documentaries
which use film to examine history, and demonstrate how our sense of
history is influenced by film. A French documentary, "Reprise," is based
on a famous documentary film clip shot on the streets of Paris during
the strikes in May of 1968. In "Reprise" we first watch the clip. Next
the filmmaker begins to examine the clip's history by tracking down the
people who shot the footage and the people who appear in the clip
itself. Through the memories of the actual participants we find out
what happened at the scene in 1968. Finally we are shown the clip a
second time to see how our new understanding of the events changes our
understanding of the footage. History influences film and film
Several American films are among Gregor's favorites this year. Yvonne
Rainer's "Murder And Murder" (Zeitgeist Films) is a film he particularly
likes "because it has a unique experimental quality." Gregor also
singled out Ken Jacobs, who is here with his live "Nervous System
Film Performances." Less experimental but also interesting is Nick Gomez'
The number of submissions to the Forum has been growing every year.
About half of the forty films programmed by Gregor this year were
discovered on film scouting trips. That left only about twenty slots
for the 700 or so unsolicited submissions he received this year. 270 of
these entries were from American Independents. "It is a real threat to
the machinery here and if it continues could absolutely submerge the