Is the End in Sight for Berlinale Chief Dieter Kosslick?

Is the End in Sight for
Courtesy of AP/REX/Shutterstock

Dieter Kosslick (center) with festival guests Diego Luna, Sienna Miller, Dora Bouchoucha, Paul Verhoeven

Is the end in sight for Dieter Kosslick’s 16-year reign as chief of the Berlin Intl. Film Festival — also known as the Berlinale — one of the world’s top five movie events?

Speculation about Kosslick’s future has been rife in the German media after Berlin newspaper B.Z. said in an article Tuesday that his contract would not be renewed when it ran out in May 2019. The paper cited unnamed sources within the German government, which contributes €7.2 million ($7.72 million) to the festival’s €24 million ($25.7 million) budget, and appoints the festival director.

A spokesperson at the German Culture Ministry told Variety it would not comment on press speculation but did not deny B.Z.’s claim, saying only that Kosslick and Culture Minister Monika Gruetters were in discussions about the festival’s future development, including personnel issues.

Kosslick himself joked about the matter. “Up till now, no one has not extended my contract,” he told Der Tagesspiegel. He liked his job very much, he said, and is the festival’s boss till May 31, 2019, at least. He added that he is already planning the next Berlinale.

One possibility that has been mooted in the German press is that Kosslick may continue in an honorary or less hands-on role. There is a precedent for that at the Berlinale. In 2014, Beki Probst — who had been director of Berlin’s European Film Market since 1988 — stood down and became its president.

In addition to doubts about Kosslick’s future, there is the added urgent issue of the Berlinale’s home. The lease on the festival’s headquarters in Potsdamer Platz runs out next year, and the festival’s main venue, the Theater am Potsdamer Platz (also known as the Berlinale Palast), just a few steps away, has been closed.

Kosslick told Variety before the Berlinale that the festival was in negotiations with Brookfield, the U.S.-Canadian real-estate company that is the new owner of Potsdamer Platz. “Both sides want to reach an agreement,” Kosslick said. “The theater is already closed but it will be opened again only for the Berlinale. So far we have a contract until 2018….There is a lot of goodwill on both sides.”

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  1. Carl says:

    Dieter Kosslick did a good job in bringing back the German film to the Berlinale, after Moritz de Hadeln had ignored the domestic film production since decades, because he simply didn’t like them. Since Kosslick became the Berlinale boss, there always were at least 2 good German films in the competition and sometimes they won major awards.

    Kosslick had some very good ideas that have been copied at other festivals, too, especially the Berlinale Talent Campus, which brings together young filmmakers from all over the world every year.

    The Berlinale has become a cultural fun event that’s about much more than only watching art house films and he’s responsible for that.

    There are also a few things I didn’t like, but they are minor things:
    -I don’t think that he should have selected Roland Emmerich as ‘Head of Jury’ a few yars ago. That seriously hurt the reputation of the festival, because Emmerich is simply too commercial and too untalented a filmmaker to deserve such an honour. Kosslick did it to show the world, that commercial films are art, too, but by extending ‘art’ to Emmerich’s disaster movies the term pretty much becomes empty and meaningless. It would have been O.K. to have Emmerich as a member of the jury, but as the ‘Head of Jury’ ? A very bad idea.
    -The films of the ‘Berlin School’ are not without interest and some deserved to be in the competition, but it’s very hard to justify the inclusion of Thomas Arslan’s last few films. There is nothing outstanding about them and they deserve their bad reviews. If a German film is selcted for competition, it should be of very high quality and/or present a new talent or maybe an old master. But Arslan is nothing of this. His films would be O:K. in a side event, but in the competition they are wrong.
    -Maybe the biggest failures of Kosslick’s selection team were the rejections of “The Lives of Others” and especially “Son of Saul”.

    All in all, Kosslick did a lot of good things & a few not-so-good-things.
    He had a better run than Moritz de Hadeln.

    It’s probably a good idea to let somebody fresh try his luck in 2020…

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