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Alfred Bauer: Berlin founding father

Cinephile was fest's first director

After the end of WWII, former soldier and passionate cinephile Alfred Bauer served as film adviser to the British military government.

In 1950 he edited the “German Film Almanac 1929-1950,” and later the same year he was appointed director of the film festival — a job that would consume him for the next quarter-century.

Along the way, he frequently came under attack from the press, from his peers (future Forum topper Ulrich Gregor was a particular critic) and, occasionally, from his own selection committees.

After one especially dismal year, in 1964, which saw a number of significant films rejected — including Jean-Luc Godard’s “Bande a part” (Band of Outsiders) — and some poisonous notices in the press, Bauer announced a “10-point plan” to reinvigorate the festival. It included bringing a younger generation of critics and cineastes into the programming fold, a move that helped ensure the fest’s continuing relevance and its embattled director’s survival.

While there were frustrations ahead (though diplomatic in public, Bauer was privately dismayed by the 1970 decision to split the festival between the Competition and the Intl. Forum of New Cinema), his steady hand achieved funding stability, programming autonomy and growing worldwide renown for the Berlinale.

When he handed it over to his successor, Wolf Donner, in 1977, the event had managed, against considerable odds, to carve out a place alongside Cannes and Venice.

Bauer died in October 1986. His name lives on in the Alfred Bauer Prize, awarded at each Berlinale to a film that “opens new perspectives in the art of filmmaking.” Just as its namesake would have wished.

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