Is the End in Sight for Berlinale Chief Dieter Kosslick?

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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