While no one at the Berlin Film Festival’s opening day jury press conference mentioned U.S. President Donald Trump’s name, his shadow loomed large over the crowded room as jury members discussed wide-ranging topics that spanned film, politics, culture, economics and the role of technology.
“For me as an American, it’s incredible to be at such an international film festival at this point in time,” said jury member Maggie Gyllenhaal. “I want people around the world to know that there are many, many people in my country that are ready to resist.”
Mexico’s Diego Luna said he was “always looking at ways too tear down walls” when asked about his feelings on Trump’s proposed U.S. border fortification. “The only positive thing about this is the reaction that it has caused — I want to be part of that, to reject all the nonsense and hatred. I cross that border three or four times a month and there are so many stories of love on the other side.”
With regard to the political nature that usually characterizes many of the Berlinale’s films, however, Luna stressed, “We’re not here to send a message. It’s the other way around. We’re here to hear them. Cinema is a tool of change — we’re here to listen and celebrate diverse voices.”
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Dutch filmmaker and jury president Paul Verhoeven added, “I’m here to just look at movies without any political prejudice. It’s about the quality of the movies.”
Asked if the growing impact of technology on modern cinema, such as the use of CGI versions of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” posed a threat to the art form, Verhoeven responded that the real threat to Hollywood was “that everything is now bottom-line compared to when I first came to the U.S. in the 1980s. There used to be lots of R-rated films but now there is a lack of adult movies. Everybody wants PG or PG13 movies in order to make more money — they put money into these movies and want the double or triple back. That is certainly a threat.”
Gyllenhaal pointed out that Verhoeven’s Golden Globe-winning French drama “Elle,” starring Isabelle Huppert, was an adult movie due to its complex ideas and how it breaks with established notions of feminism. “We’re hungry for more movies like that,” Gyllenhaal said, leading a seeming offer from Verhoeven, who replied: “Perhaps we can do it together.”
Speaking about the Berlinale’s impact on Chinese film, Chinese filmmaker Wang Quan’an, who has in the past won several prizes in Berlin, including the 2007 Golden Bear for “Tuya’s Marriage,” said the fest had given considerable support to Chinese cinema over the years and helped advance the development of film in the country. “It’s been very good for Chinese cinema.”
Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson praised the festival for its independence, noting that the Berlinale had “made great efforts to not be taken over by the market.” He added that the cultural sector represented in Berlin, unlike the political or financial sectors, was one of collaboration and that with its great power it also had a great responsibility.
The jury, which also includes German actress Julia Jentsch and Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha Fourati, will award eight prizes, including the Golden Bear for best film and seven Silver Bears in performance and technical categories.