Directors Call for Overhaul of Berlin Film Festival After Dieter Kosslick Departs

A group of 79 German filmmakers including Maren Ade (“Tony Erdmann”), Fatih Akin (“In the Fade”) and Robert Schwentke (“The Captain”) has called for “a new start” for the Berlin Film Festival after longtime festival director Dieter Kosslick’s contract expires in 2019.

In an open letter published by Spiegel Online, the filmmakers recommend the formation of a gender-balanced international selection committee charged with finding Kosslick’s successor and weighing fundamental changes to the event.

“The goal must be to find an outstanding curatorial personality who is passionate about cinema, well-connected internationally and capable of leading the festival into the future on an equal footing with Cannes and Venice,” the letter read. “We want a transparent procedure and a new start.”

The letter, whose signatories also include Andreas Dresen, Sebastian Schipper, Volker Schlöndorff, Dominik Graf, Christian Petzold, Doris Dörrie, Maria Schrader, Hans-Christian Schmid and Rosa von Praunheim, is seen as a public rebuke of the Kosslick era, during which the Berlinale has added new sections and programs but which critics say has had inferior films in competition compared to those at other A-list festivals.

Responding to the letter, Kosslick said: “I can understand that these directors want transparency when it comes to the process of reforming the Berlinale. Its future is a matter of great importance for all us.”

Kosslick added that the Berlinale’s supervisory board, which is chaired by German commissioner for culture and media Monika Grütters, had asked him to submit a proposal for the potential restructuring of the festival. “I will do so – and this proposal will be totally independent of me personally,” he said.

Kosslick has headed the Berlinale since 2001. Under his leadership, the festival has retained its distinctly political outlook while embracing world cinema, particularly works from developing nations. Among Kosslick’s many contributions is the World Cinema Fund, which helps finance films from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

According to Spiegel Online, Kirsten Niehuus, current managing director of regional film support office Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, is under consideration as a possible successor to Kosslick, who likewise headed a state funding board, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Filmstiftung NRW, before becoming director of the Berlinale.

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