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Berlinale, A Wayward Journalist’s Report

Berlinale, A Wayward Journalist's Report

Berlinale, A Wayward Journalist's Report

by Ryan Deussing

To the uninitiated, the Berlin International Film Festival (the
Berlinale in Eurospeak) is actually several events rolled into one, with
Competition, Panorama, and Forum screenings vying for attention with
films in the European Film Market next door (not to mention screenings
for the Kinderfilmfest, which runs the same week). Making matters even
more complicated, market screenings aren’t listed in the festival
program, so determining when and where to see a film can involve a
harried system of checking and double-checking times and venues against
more than one schedule. My own organizational issues notwithstanding,
Berlin manages to handle a tremendous number of films, filmmakers,
industry folks, and filmgoers with remarkable efficiency.

While quite a few films in the official selection came to Berlin
straight from Sundance (“A Letter without Words”, “Life During Wartime”,
Central Station“, “Girl’s Night“, and “Modulations“) other filmmakers
arrived in Berlin on a wing and a prayer, hoping to generate enough buzz
around their single market screening to attract European buyers. For
Gary Rosen and Greg Pritikin (the directors and stars of “Totally
“) getting buyers to attend their screening turned out to be the
easy part.

“I think we just had the best market screening that didn’t happen,”
explains Rosen, after repeated technical difficulties forced them to
stop their screening just as the audience was beginning to enjoy

Though their screening was a flop, their market experience was not a
bust. They worked the floor every day before their screening, hoping to
attract as many buyers as possible. “We didn’t want to do what Belgium
did during WWII and just sit around waiting for the Germans to come.” As
a result, they had people sitting on the floor and staying there, even
after the projector had broken down for the third time. In the end, less
than half of their film, about two friends in Chicago struggling through
career mishaps and sexual confusion, was enough to attract a few foreign

Back at the Zoo Palast (the festival’s premiere venue), the jury somehow
overlooked one of the best films in Berlin, Rowan Wood’s “The Boys“. An
Australian outback-trash psychological thriller about three dangerous
brothers, “The Boys” is like “Dead Man Walking” shot with the
place-no-blame objectivity of “In the Company of Men“.

“It’s common in Australia for first-time directors to be placed with
experienced heads of departments,” explains Woods. “But we held firm in
this case — everyone on the set was working on their first feature, and
most of us are buddies who have been making shorts together for years.”
First produced as a play, “The Boys” also benefits from a lead actor and
Associate Producer (David Wenham) who created the original role on the

The word on the street this year was that Berlin has become increasingly
commercial, going bananas in anticipation of Robert de Niro’s arrival
and loading the Competition program with films already slated for German
release like “Wag the Dog” and “Great Expectations“. The former was
definitely true, but as far as the caliber of films in the festival is
concerned, Berlin still aims to cover as much ground as ever, making
rumors of the festival’s ‘selling out’ to be gross exaggerations. The
buying and selling going on at the European Film Market, meanwhile,
makes Berlin a fantastic opportunity for indie filmmakers lucky enough
to be able to screen their film in two ways: once for festival audiences
as part of the fest’s official selection, and again for buyers at the
market screenings.


(Feb 25, 1998) Chasing Teddy: Gay & Lesbian Film at The 1998 Berlin Film

(Feb 23, 1998) Salles’ “Central Station” Awarded Top Prize in Berlin; Other
Awards Also Announced

(Feb 19, 1998) Hitting the Ground Running: Americans at the Berlinale Market

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