After a weekend of snow, ice and a cold biting wind here in Berlin, the skies cleared and temperatures warmed up a bit in the German capital, making the festival all the more manageable for visitors and locals alike. Sitting down to chat with indieWIRE at the mid-point of the annual Berlinale, festival director Dieter Kosslick, wearing a light festival hoodie, breathed a sigh of relief that the winter weather had eased up. Chatting about his role as the jovial goodwill ambassador atop one of the world’s leading film festivals and markets, Kosslick said that he had spent the first first days in Berlin making any number of welcome speeches, setting the tone for the event with a mix of jokes and serious comments. And, as with any good host, he explained he has to make sure his guests are comfortable, “We have to take care of (people),” he smiled, “With the cold…making sure we have enough scarves, to keep them warm…”
Much has been written about Kosslick’s transformation of this event since joining the Berlin International Film Festival back in 2002. In his first two years, Kosslick created well-publicized slogans to inspire his team and festival attendees alike, promoting both diversity and tolerance as early goals. Along the way, he also re-made the festival, expanding the annual European Film Market, bolstering the competition section with a mix of both serious and celebrity-driven work, launching the Talent Campus for emerging filmmakers, developing a co-production event for new projects, and reworking sections for German film and movies aimed at younger audiences.
“I want to have glamour, business, and young people,” Kosslick told indieWIRE, during a sit-down interview during his first Berlinale back in 2002, discussing his goals for the event. And he added a key element, noting the festival’s serious side. “We are in a special time after September 11th (and) I am a political person,” Kosslick told indieWIRE at the time. “The festival reflects the situation in the world.” Continuing he offered, “You cannot go to a place like here, 800 meters away from Hitler’s bunker…you can’t have a festival without reflecting the society.”
“The Berlinale is now, for me, in a perfect structure,” Kosslick told indieWIRE, “We don’t need a new competition or a (new) sidebar.” He added that his top priorities include actually consolidating a bit where necessary, while adding a few new fun and unique programs, and at the same time, coping with the explosive growth of the European Film Market. Last year’s EFM marked a turning point when the event moved to massive new digs at Martin Gropius Bau near Potsdamer Platz. It was formally ushered in with a visit from then new German Chancellor Angela Merkel who toured the active site with Kosslick and EFM head Beki Probst. Changes at other international markets had paved the way for the EFM to expand and the response from buyers and sellers has been significant, filling the large venues with booths and meeting places, even resulting in a new on-site restaurant for networking and some industry folks spilling over to additional meeting and market space in Potsdamer Platz.
“The market exploded,” Kosslick explained, “We didn’t expect it…we have to take care of what we are going to do (and look at) how we are running the market in the future.”
Outside the business of film, the Berlinale walks a tightrope between celebrities, the industry and more serious international fare. “The festival was founded with the idea to break the isolation of the Cold War in 1952 and ’53,” Kosslick told indieWIRE three years go, “This has always been a kind of ‘political’ festival, I use that term in quotes.”
Now the event is seeing that line between political and celebrity films blur a bit, as Kosslick explained during the chat with indieWIRE this week. “This year, it’s a fantastic thing, we have more celebrities and they have more serious subjects. We have the superstars but they (are making) films about things I want to show.” Concluding the thought, Kosslick defended the focus on substantive work, adding, “If people just want to have fun and drink they should go to the carnival. We have to use our festival to raise [internationally] serious issues here, and fortunately enough, more and more filmmakers are doing film like this.”
Pressed to offer some sense of goals he may have for the Berlinale, Kosslick quipped someone recently suggested that he develop a relationship with God so that he can have a greater impact on the weather during the event. “I don’t need the relationship with God, because I have Mr. Bush,” Kosslick told indieWIRE, smiling slightly, “He and other guys are responsible for the global warming, so I just have to wait until it’s warm like in Cannes and Venice. This would be the only positive effect of global warming in history.”
Concluding the thought, Kosslick quipped that perhaps in five years, “The Belinale (will have) weather like in the Cote d’Azur…so (Cannes festival head) Thierry Fremaux, pay attention!”
indieWIRE’s coverage from the 2007 Berlinale and the European Film Market continues in a special section.