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Berlin: James Schamus Says Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Presence Will Be Felt at Fest

Schamus pays tribute during presser

James Schamus, president of the Berlinale international jury, said Thursday at the panel’s press conference that Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was meant to be a guest at the festival, would be a presence at the event.

“That news was pretty tough on all of us in the business,” Schamus said. “Philip Seymour Hoffman will be here. There’s going to be a screening, and I know a lot of his friends are going to be joining together to remember him. It is at places like Berlin that you have the opportunity to remember, to mourn and to celebrate … the festival is doing its best (to do that) … and he will be here.”

Schamus sidestepped a question about whether moral and ethical issues should be considered when giving someone an award in light of recent allegations against Woody Allen. “I believe that the moral and ethical decisions have already been made by the selection committee,” Schamus said.

He disagreed with the assumption when asked what an event like Berlinale represented in a world where bigscreen viewing was in decline.

“Moviegoing as a communal experience is not declining,” he said. “If you go to places like China, where I think they are building seven screens a day, and their screens are serving younger and younger audiences. At the same time, where I live, New York City, when I go to see arthouse cinema, foreign-language cinema, it makes me feel great because I am the youngest person in the theater. So the dynamics of demographic, political and aesthetic are constantly changing. And that’s what makes festivals like Berlin so exciting.

“The fact that we have three films in Chinese this year (in competition), those kind of things make for the exchange — not just of ideas, but also the experience of different kinds of people, and hopefully that blend is what’s going to continue to strengthen cinema and not weaken it.”

Schamus was joined at the presser by other members of his jury: Christoph Waltz, Barbara Broccoli, Trine Dyrholm, Mitra Farahani, Greta Gerwig, Michel Gondry and Tony Leung.
Waltz said it would be difficult to judge other people’s films. “Appraising and being appraised, those are two very different things, you can’t compare the one with the other,” he said. “It’s like a pair of boots, one for the left foot and one for the right foot, you can’t put them on the same foot. There aren’t any principles that you can apply to approach this kind of thing.”

With three Chinese films in competition, Leung was queried on whether Chinese cinema is growing in importance on the international festival circuit.

Leung said, “I think the Chinese film industry has been growing globally in the past 10 years. People are getting interested in Chinese culture, so you’ll see in the near future there’ll be more and more Chinese movies at international film festivals.”

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