Rolling Stones, Errol Morris pump up lineup

BERLIN – If there was a mineral water guaranteed to make fest toppers feel confident, they could bottle it and call it Kosslick.

Two weeks before the start of his seventh go-round and Berlin’s 58th,

Dieter Kosslick is bouncing off the walls of his spacious Potsdamer Platz office in anticipation of opening night.

Like all fest directors, he’s had his fair share of first-night duds — “I have this saying that the opening-night film is also an opening nightmare film” — but with the world preem of Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert doc, “Shine a Light,” he has no doubt that he’s hit the jackpot.

“People are already asking me,” bubbles the 59-year-old Berlinale Direktor, “‘Isn’t it a bit early to make the biggest coup in your seven years by getting the Rolling Stones? How can you top that next year?'”

That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, avers Kosslick, “it’s good to have an opener with music because, if the film is good, it helps people get into a certain mood. This is the third time I’ve started with a music film. We had fantastic opening nights with ‘Chicago’ in 2003 and ‘La mome’ (“La Vie en rose”) last year, and ‘Shine a Light’ is not just a great film but also a great performance by a rock band. You also see how the master, Scorsese, made it, as well as some backstage footage.”

It’s the first time the Berlinale has opened with a docu, but Kosslick says he went for “Light” simply because he liked it as a movie.

“I always think there are some types of films you can present with a bigger splash. But it’s also true that documentaries are getting better the whole time; I saw a lot more than usual the past year, including Errol Morris’ Abu Ghraib one, ‘Standard Operating Procedure,’ which is in Competition.”

Looking objectively at his Official Selection, he says, “The one criticism I’d have is the paucity of Central European films. We couldn’t really find anything suitable, though we do have Andrzej Wajda’s ‘Katyn,’ about the famous WWII massacre, which I chased at an early stage.”

With his contract lasting till 2011, ticket sales rising year on year, and a booming market attached, Kosslick is in a safer place than many other jittery fest heads. Even the parlous state of the finances of the city doesn’t affect the fest, which receives not one cent in direct funding from either municipal or regional sources. Since 2000, when Berlin was restored as Germany’s capital, the state chunk of the Berlinale’s budget — currently E6.5 million ($9.5 million) of E17 million ($25 million) — has come directly from the central government’s Ministry of Culture.

“After my seven years,” says Kosslick, “I think we’re done with adding things: the Berlinale is now a full-service film festival. We have a Competition, a market, a retrospective, a co-production market, the Talent Campus, cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair, and so on.”

However, one problem he’s aware needs to be addressed is the seemingly unstoppable growth of the European Film Market.

“After this Berlinale, we have to sit down and decide in what direction we want to take the EFM. We have a very precious thing in our hands here: It’s like a new 3-year-old kid, and it takes awhile to know where the boy or girl is going.”

Adds Kosslick, “But it’s also a philosophical question. Even though the EFM has already outgrown its new home in the Martin Gropius Bau, should you stop the growth of something which is still growing? I don’t know the answer at the moment.”

For Kosslick, the happy problem of the EFM is simply finding a balance between all of the Berlinale’s parts and where the fest is headed in the future. “And we must not forget the films and the ticketbuying audience. We now have 200,000 ordinary people who just show up and want to see movies.

“As long as we can present a strong selection of films, everything will be fine. But we also have to be sure to maintain the actual places these films are shown, the movie theaters. As we say in German: ‘Ohne Kinos gibts kein Kino’ — without cinemas there’s no cinema.”

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