After a prolonged search over the past year, the Berlin Film Festival has hired Carlo Chatrian as its new director, according to multiple German outlets, including the daily newspaper B.Z. Berlin. Chatrian, who served as artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival since 2013, will replace outgoing Berlin director Dieter Kosslick. Festival representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Kosslick, who ran the festival since 2001, faced criticism in recent years for the caliber of films in the lineup. Consternation over his tenure reached a fever pitch last fall, when 79 German directors delivered an open letter to Spiegel Online demanding a “new start” to the festival as well as the hiring of “an outstanding curatorial personality who is passionate about cinema, well-connected internationally and capable of leading the festival into the future on an equal footing with Cannes and Venice.” Kosslick’s contract expires May 31, 2019.
The German Cultural Events Agency supervised the hire with oversight from Monika Gruetters, Germany’s commissioner for culture and the media. In February, Kosslick told Variety he felt that his replacement should be divided into two roles. Asked about the suggestion, Gruetters told the outlet, “It depends on who we find.”
The news comes as the Italian-born Chatrian completes his sixth year with Locarno, where he programmed world premieres in international competition slots as well as Hollywood crowdpleasers in the the famed Piazza Grande, where up to 8,000 people could watch major-studio tentpoles outdoors. Chatrian began his career as a film critic and curator, working his way into Locarno by overseeing many of its retrospectives. Under his tenure at Locarno, Golden Leopard winners included Hong Sang-soo’s “Right Now, Wrong Then,” Lav Diaz’s “From What Is Before,” and Albert Serra’s “The Story of My Death.”
Chatrian maintained Locarno’s profile among discerning European cinephiles and brings those credentials to Berlin, which takes place in February and struggles to make its competition entries stand out just a few months before Cannes. Other Berlin highlights are often lost in smaller sections. However, he faces daunting challenges at the Berlinale: In addition to competing for titles with Cannes, he will have to juggle a massive program of around 400 international and European premieres, a discerning international press corps, as well as an industry that tends to spend the bulk of its festival at the European Film Market rather than focusing the program itself. The 2018 festival attracted just under half a million people, and operates with an annual budget of 25 million euros.
Chatrian’s hiring marks the third high profile festival programming hire this year, following Sundance’s hiring of Kim Yutani as director of programming and incoming Directors’ Fortnight artistic director Paolo Moretti. Chatrian was not available for comment. German outlets who reported the hire Tuesday said that the festival will make its own announcement Friday.