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Berlinale Top Job Likely to Be Split in Two After Dieter Kosslick Departure

Amid widespread discussion of the future of the Berlin Film Festival after director Dieter Kosslick steps down next year, the signs are increasingly pointing to the likelihood of a double act to succeed the affable longtime chief.

Throughout his 17-year tenure, Kosslick has been both the chief executive of the Berlinale as well as its artistic director. The Cannes and Venice fests, by contrast, split those roles.

“It’s interesting that nearly all big film festivals have at least two directors,” German commissioner for culture and the media Monika Gruetters noted in a recent chat with German pubcaster ZDF. “Dieter Kosslick has done quite a lot.”

That may be soon to change. Last month, the supervisory board of the German Federal Cultural Events Agency (KBB) met to discuss the future of the festival and how best to select a successor to Kosslick.

“The recommendation I made to the supervisory board was that it should be at least two jobs: a CEO and an artistic director,” Kosslick added. “As it was my suggestion, I think it is a good suggestion.”

In overseeing the entire festival, Kosslick has been responsible for maintaining key ties to government officials and securing sponsorship and additional revenue while also overseeing the fest’s artistic presentation, film selection and relations with filmmakers and actors.

“I can definitely imagine spreading that burden onto multiple shoulders,” Gruetters said, “but it really depends on who we find.”

Gruetters chairs the KBB supervisory board. At its January meeting, the panel discussed options for a future festival concept and management structure, and heard recommendations from a committee comprised of representatives from film festivals, distributors and production companies.

“In the search for a suitable successor to Dieter Kosslick, the question arises as to how the festival can best be prepared for the future,” Gruetters said. “A future director of the Berlinale will have to deal with this challenge.”

Kosslick’s contract expires on May 31, 2019, and he reiterated that he would definitely not continue as artistic director beyond that. “We’ll see what happens then,” he said.

The KBB board has praised Kosslick for his work and stressed that the status the Berlinale had achieved among A-list festivals under his management would be a benchmark for the new leadership.

The debate over the future of the festival erupted last year after Spiegel Online published a letter signed by 79 German filmmakers calling for a new start following Kosslick’s exit and a transparent process in selecting his successor. The article portrayed the letter as an attack on Kosslick and his management style, an interpretation the letter’s signers quickly rejected.

Local filmmakers such as Tom Tykwer, this year’s Berlinale jury president, and Christian Petzold, whose film “Transit” is screening in competition, are still calling for a careful and intelligent transition to new leadership, however.

“Many of my colleagues wanted to express their great desire that this transition be handled with great care when the time comes in two years, that it is taken seriously, that it includes the industry and the artists and the relevant representatives of Germany’s film sector,” Tykwer said. “That was the crux of the letter.

“We all love this festival. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t look forward to being here when February comes and the icy weather hits,” Tykwer added.

“When you realize that half a million people come here to watch films, that dream all year of getting a ticket, that stand for hours in line to watch [a new film], it’s obvious to me that that is an achievement that no other festival in the world can offer in that dimension,” Tykwer said. “Obviously everyone wants to preserve that.”

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