The decision to hire Chatrian comes after a protracted search for a replacement for Kosslick, whose mandate expires on May 31, 2019. Though Chatrian has been selected as Kosslick’s successor, his appointment still needs to be ratified by a Berlinale board meeting which will take place Friday, according to several sources.
Chatrian, 46, is an Italian film critic and curator who has served as artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival since 2013.
He has been selected by the supervisory board of the German Federal Cultural Events Agency (KBB), overseen by Germany’s commissioner for culture and media, Monika Gruetters.
If his appointment is ratified, Chatrian will be under pressure to give the Berlin fest some new luster. Kosslick, after running the event for 17 years, has recently come under some criticism.
Last November, 79 of Germany’s most prominent filmmakers and industry executives published an open letter in German outlet Spiegel Online, calling for a “new start” for the fest, which under Kosslick’s leadership has undergone a major expansion, reaching a current capacity of about 400 international and European premieres that generate roughly 500,000 admissions. Its European Film Market component is second in Europe only to the market at Cannes.
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However, critics say the festival has declined in quality over the years, with too many sidebars, too many films, and not enough curation.
“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,” read a key passage in the open letter.
The soft-spoken Chatrian has gradually raised the bar at Locarno, which is Europe’s preeminent indie cinema event, by programming an increasingly diverse mix of esoteric and more accessible titles, including crowd-pleasers from the major Hollywood studios, which are screened at the Swiss fest’s 8,000-seat Piazza Grande venue. He is known as a dedicated and discerning cinephile with good networking skills.
There had been some speculation that a woman would be appointed to head Berlin, with Spiegel Online mentioning Kirsten Niehuus, current managing director of regional film support office Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, as a possible successor to Kosslick, who will step down after next year’s edition.
It’s possible that Kosslick’s current role – he serves as both artistic and commercial director – will be split in two, as Kosslick himself has recommended, with Chatrian tapped to serve only as the fest’s artistic director.