German film champion turns to Teuton Academy

After opening up the Berlinale to another generation of local talent and helping make new German cinema a permanent fixture of the festival, Alfred Holighaus sees his work at the Berlin fest completed.

Now managing director at the German Film Academy, a post he took in January, Holighaus’ jewel is Berlin’s Per-spektive Deutsches Kino sidebar, which he helped establish in 2001, where he’s shepherded a flock of young filmmakers from film-school projects to high-profile features.

Holighaus will continue to promote German film while also working on his own cinematic endeavors, including two upcoming documentaries, one celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Berlinale, and the other, helmed by Gandulf Hennig, on country music star Merle Haggard.

“I’m as passionate about American music as I am about German film,” says Holighaus, who also produced Hennig’s 2004 doc “Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons.”

It’s the passion for Teutonic cinema that led the one-time magazine editor and former exec at Senator Film to the Berlinale, where he joined the team ushered in by Dieter Kosslick in 2001.

Kosslick tapped Holighaus to strengthen the presence of German film at the Berlinale by creating another sidebar.

“The Perspektive is now in its ninth year and very well established, so, although it’s not easy, I can leave with a good conscience. The mission has been accomplished.”

Indeed, the Perspektive has become a favorite sidebar for young filmmakers, festival programmers and local industry reps scouting fresh talent.

“The audience is wonderfully curious, and every year the screenings are full. We have built a new platform at the Berlinale for young filmmakers who had not previously been represented,” Holighaus says.

“If they were here at all, it was as onlookers. Now they are taking part in the festival and are showing their films here. Young filmmakers and students are taken seriously here: They have a place here, and that was part of our mission.”

Holighaus compares the success of the Perspektive to that of the Talent Campus, saying the two initiatives re-energized the fest and opened it up to a different audience, a different clientele, and encouraged a dialogue between young participants and more experienced filmmakers showing pics at the fest.

“What’s great about a festival is that you have filmmakers here not only showing their films, but also able to impart their knowledge. You can come into contact with them, talk to them, learn from them. It’s a great opportunity,” he says.

Some of Perspektive’s most significant discoveries:

n Robert Thalheim, who took part in the Perspektive with 2005’s Berlin-set father-son drama “Netto,” and more recently helmed 2007’s award-winning “And Along Come Tourists,” which preemed in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar.

n Maximilian Erlenwein, whose short “Blackout” screened in 2005, has since helmed the psychological-heist drama “Schwerkraft” (Gravity), which premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival last year.

n Ulrike von Ribbeck, whose short film “Charlotte” premiered in the sidebar in 2004 also screened in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight; she went on to helm “Frueher oder spaeter” (Sooner or Later), which screened in Locarno in 2007.

n Marcus Mittermeier, who got his start in Perspektive with his drama “Muxmaeuschenstill” (Quiet as a Mouse), about a vigilante documentary filmmaker. Mittermeier again partnered with writer, actor and co-director Jan Henrik Stahlberg on last year’s “Shortcut to Hollywood”; pic unspooled in 2009 Berlinale’s Panorama section.

n Bettina Bluemner, who made a splash with “Prinzessinnenbad” (Pool of Princesses) an edgy documentary about three teenage girls in Berlin.

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