Taking place two months after a terrorist attack in Berlin and at the dawn of a new political era for the U.S, this year’s Berlin Film Festival could turn out to be one of the most politically charged in years. The failure of capitalism is one prominent motif. Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick discusses social and political themes, the challenges of ensuring maximum security and the sale of Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, home to the Berlinale. He also offers his thoughts on President Trump and Meryl Streep.
How would you describe the main themes running through this year’s films? The subject of immigration and refugees seem to be integral to Etienne Comar’s opening film “Django” and Aki Kaurismaki’s “The Other Side of Hope.”
It’s very interesting — many filmmakers are focusing on history and are trying to explain why things are the way they are today from a historical perspective. One example is “Viceroy’s House,” the story of India’s independence 70 years ago and how the British left the country — socially devastated. They produced millions of refugees by relocating people in India and Pakistan in an effort to hinder the conflict between Muslims and Hindus. About a million people died during the relocation. The director, Gurinder Chadha, who made “Bend It Like Beckham,” has made an epic film with both a great European aesthetic and elements of Bollywood.
Another historical film in Panorama, “The King’s Choice,” from Erik Poppe, is about the German invasion of Norway. There’s a second thread running through the festival with films like the Berlinale Special entries “Last Days in Havana” by Fernando Pérez, which deals with finality, and Raoul Peck’s “The Young Karl Marx,” about the world that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote about when they were in London and the brutal capitalism of the time. Now, more than 150 years after his masterpiece “Das Kapital,” you see the result, that capitalism has failed. We see that in the devastating portrait of an African country in Alain Gomis’ “Felicité” — a wonderful love story, but set in a nation that is completely destroyed and only exploited. The colonial lords have been replaced by investors.
It’s not just capitalism that has failed — communism has also failed, as we see in a number of films from Eastern Europe.
This year’s Berlinale takes place just two months after the terrorist attack in Berlin. What effect do you expect it will have on the festival?
It’s unfortunately not the first time. Last year the Berlinale took place just a couple of weeks after [the] Paris [attack]. We were in the same situation, asking ourselves what we should do. How high should security be? It has to be the maximum of what we can do and that is what we will again do. There may be other measures. We are working very closely with the police. We don’t want a military situation, but we will definitely have the maximum security. We have an entire department devoted solely to security. Trade visitors have not been scared away. We already have more accreditations than last year and the market is sold out and overbooked. No one has canceled.
“Logan” is screening out of competition, one of the few comic-book adaptations to screen in Berlin since “300” in 2007.
Yes, Hugh Jackman will be here. The film is grandiose. Jackman gives a fantastic performance. James Mangold has made an incredible picture that leaves you astonished on different levels. It’s a big film and a great genre movie for the final Friday of the festival.
What effect do you expect the new U.S. president will have on how American culture is viewed abroad?
We have to wait a bit until the shockwaves have calmed and the waves of protest begin. Meryl Streep gave a brilliant speech at the Golden Globes. She was our jury president last year and for us, Meryl Streep remains our president.
What are some of the new additions this year?
Thanks to the support of our new principal partner Glashütte Original, we have launched a new documentary award [worth €50,000]. All of the sections can nominate films and we’ll have 18 films in total competing for the award. We have always had a lot of documentary films at the Berlinale, and in recent years also in competition, including [the Golden Bear-winning] “Fire at Sea” last year. The documentary film has gained significant ground at the Berlinale and it’s a great success that we can now honor that.
Has any decision been made about the Berlinale location following last year’s sale of Potsdamer Platz and the closure of the Theater am Potsdamer Platz, also known as the Berlinale Palast?
No, but we are on speaking terms with Brookfield, the U.S.-Canadian real estate company and new owner. Both sides want to reach an agreement. The theater is already closed but it will be opened again only for the Berlinale. So far we have a contract until 2018. We are on speaking terms with the owners and there is a lot of goodwill on both sides.
Your contract ends in 2019. Would you like to continue as director of the Berlinale thereafter?
That’s still a long time away. Please ask me after the next three Berlinale editions.
Dieter Kosslick is a noted foodie. Here are some of his favorite places to eat in Berlin.
“My schedule during the festival is very tight. So I get some of the delicious Berlinale Street Food (Joseph-von-Eichendorf-Gasse/Corner Alte Potsdamer Strasse) here at Potsdamer Platz, especially the Käsespätzle, the swabian noodles, a true German specialty. The Berlinale crowd also loves two Italian restaurants, Essenza (Kollhoff Tower, Potsdamer Platz 1, 10785 Berlin) and Centoliro (Leipziger Str. 125, 10117 Berlin) of our dear friend Moreno Carusi.
The new Ki-Nova (Potsdamer Strasse 2, 10785 Berlin) opposite the Mandala Hotel prepares very good fresh food, healthy smoothies, all with friendly service.
On the top floor of the Film House you’ll find the Hele-Schwarz-Café of the Deutsche Film – und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB, Potsdamer Straße 2, 10785 Berlin). From the terrace you have a great view into the patio of the Sony Center and good prices.
If you want to be served at a two Michelin star restaurant, go to Facil on seventh floor of the Mandala Hotel (Potsdamer Strasse 3, 10785 Berlin), where you also can have a very good lunch at the Qiu Bistro on the first floor.
And of course, try to get a ticket (€90) for the Culinary Cinema. It’s mostly sold out, but worth a try. After the second screening of food films at the Martin Gropius Bau, you can at least have a fantastic German wine in the beautiful pop-up restaurant Gropius Mirror.