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Berlin Film Festival’s Incoming Co-Directors Unveil First Staffing Changes

Even before officially taking office June 1, incoming Berlinale co-chiefs Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek have unveiled a new team that includes the core of Chatrian’s programming staff when he headed the Locarno Film Festival.

Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee includes Locarno’s former head of programming, Marc Peranson – who takes on the same post in Berlin – and three Locarno selection committee members: Lorenzo Esposito, Sergio Fant, and Aurelie Godet. Variety reported exclusively last month that Peranson, Esposito and Fant would be among those making the move with Chatrian from Locarno to Berlin.

Rounding out the new selection committee are Paz Lazaro, who is stepping down as head of the Berlinale’s Panorama section; Verena Von Stackelberg, founder and managing director of Berlin’s Wolf Kino arthouse cinema; and Barbara Wurm, an expert on Eastern European film.

“I’m responsible for the festival’s artistic profile. In looking after the programming work, supported by the selection committee, I wish to carve out the artistic shape of the entire festival program,” Chatrian said in a statement Thursday.

He and Rissenbeek were tapped last June to take over from outgoing director Dieter Kosslick, whose role has been split into two separate positions.

“We have different tasks, but the same goal: to successfully lead the festival into the future!” Chatrian and Rissenbeek said. “We inherit a festival which is not only recognized as one of the biggest in the world but also plays a significant role in the international film industry; we are aware of the huge task we have in front of us and thank longtime festival director Dieter Kosslick for the work that he has done.”

The duo added that they wanted “to maintain the Berlinale as an audience festival and as a festival for Berlin, and we are looking forward to embracing the new challenges and opportunities that cinema in 21st century offers.”

Aside from the new selection committee, the new co-chiefs named Michael Stutz, a Panorama curator, as the section’s new head, replacing Lazaro. Also, Maike Mia Höhne, the longtime chief of the Berlinale Shorts section, will vacate her position following her appointment as artistic director of the Hamburg International Short Film Festival. Starting on June 1, the Berlin shorts section will be headed by veteran film programmer Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck.

The incoming head of programming, Peranson, is a Canadian critic and the editor and publisher of Canada’s Cinema Scope magazine, and until recently was also a programmer at the Vancouver International Film Festival. He was brought on board in Locarno by Chatrian’s predecessor, Olivier Pere. Peranson is considered an ardent cinephile who is well-wired into the global independent film community.

Esposito, who, like Chatrian, is Italian, is a former collaborator with the Venice, Turin and Rome festivals, and a producer on Italian pubcaster RAI’s cult late-night film-buff program, “Fuori Orario.” He is currently a consultant for the Karlovy Vary fest and France’s Cinema du Reel, which is dedicated to documentaries. Esposito also writes for several publications, including Cinemascope. Besides being in charge of the Italian cinema selection at Locarno, Esposito’s areas of expertise covered cinema from Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Arab world. 

Fant, who is also Italian, has long been based in Germany. Prior to serving on the Locarno team, he worked as a consultant for the Horizons section at Venice. His primary area of expertise is experimental cinema, but at Locarno he also oversaw German and Latin American movie selections.

Godet is a former deputy director of French promotional entity UniFrance’s New York office, a “Cahiers du Cinéma” writer, and a Locarno programmer since 2013.

Chatrian is under pressure to give Berlin’s competition new luster after some complaints that Kosslick, who had run the event for 18 years, let quantity outstrip quality. Bringing the core of his Locarno team to the Berlinale suggests that the soft-spoken Chatrian will continue to apply the same kind of auteur-driven criteria to his selection in Berlin as he did in Locarno, Europe’s preeminent indie cinema event.

In Locarno, Chatrian programmed an increasingly diverse mix of esoteric and more accessible titles, striving to maintain as high a level of quality as possible. He is also on good terms with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon.

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