Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Berlin Special: Berlinale!

berlin film festival
It’s hardly a secret to anyone who knows me even a little bit that I am a film buff. I do love movies, screenplays, cinematography, good dialogue, the film-watching experience, the way I anticipate a release I think might be good, reading Roger Ebert’s reviews, the credits rolling. I can go on about movies forever and have a thing for actors and actresses (although that might change soon due to my red carpet experience described below - shock, horror!).

As my plan about coming to Berlin was set in stone, I immediately realized I’ll be around for Berlinale as well and the thought of that made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Now that it is ongoing, I realize it’s different than I expected, in both good and not so good ways. However, it still is a pleasure to witness all of it.

It all started with the Red Carpet. I’d only been once to a festival opening before and that was in Sochi, Russia. I traveled there specifically to see Catherine Deneuve. I saw her. And sat in a row right behind her. Trust me, it was worth the two sleepless nights, the fight with my mother and the 35C-heat dehydration. The red carpet itself was alright if you are interested in Russian celebrities (cross me out). Now, you would think Berlinale would by far surpass Faces of Love (that’s the corny name of the film festival in Sochi), however I can’t say I was delighted. Far from it, in fact.

Berlin Film Festival opened in the evening of February 10 this year. Earlier the same day I was reading an interview with the project manager who is in charge of the Red Carpet at Berlinale, apparently he has been doing this job for 20 years and he’s never had any faux pas or bad experiences in his position. Maybe it was his first time, I don’t know, but I was mightily disappointed with the organization: my biggest complaint was the long pauses between arriving celebrities (and “celebrities”), sometimes breaks reached almost 10 minutes. And if you think that the Red Carpet ceremony normally spans 60-90 minutes, it’s already too much. It was a bit boring, too. There’s nothing interesting in watching people in evening dresses strike poses for 15 minutes to a crowd of photographers, really. I wouldn’t have thought it, but now that I saw it and it just happens so that it made me want to yawn.

So, solely for the sake of shameless boasting, let me just saw who was present at the opening ceremony apart from the festival director and the mayor of Berlin (who supposedly is all about parties and socializing at events like Berlinale other than doing his job): Heike Makatsch (Love Actually), Maria Schrader (Aimee&Jaguar), Jasmin Tabatabei (Mondscheintarif, Vier Minuten, Fremde Haut, Bandits), Wim Wenders, Tom Tykwer, Isabella Rossellini, Jeff Bridges, the Coen Brothers, Josh Brolin and Diane Lane. While I’m at it, let me tell you that Diane Lane got zero attention from the press/photographers. And I mean: 0. She’s a famous actress, more famous than anyone on this list, except maybe Jeff Bridges. Perhaps she was neglected like that because she was there as Josh Brolin’s wife and not as part of any film cast… but it’s a little bit beyond my understanding anyway.

I almost felt special with all the photo snappers around. Interestingly enough, they bring actual ladders for better views -> what is even more interesting, is that they chain their ladders to barriers of backdoor entrances (as if they were bikes) and leave them for the night, only to come back in the morning and mount them again for a photo opportunity. I mentioned this to a couple of locals and they were not surprised, but me, I have not encountered that before. Therefore it makes it all the more great for me to see it from the inside and not from the outside.

Thanks to my love that is couchsurfing, my friend and I both won tickets to a Norwegian movie Jørgen + Anne = Sant that we both loved. The film was followed by a Q&A session with two actors, the screenwriter and the director – thankfully we were in the first row (depends on how you look at it, of course), so we were quite out there. Both the screenwriter and the director are young women and it’s nice to see that women now have more access and exposure to the film industry. The whole thing felt very raw, for the lack of a better word.

On top of it, Radio Eins organizes a live talk show with the cast and everybody involved with films presented at the festival every day at 10pm in Cinemaxx just next to the Berlinale Palast and the event is free to attend. It couldn’t be more convenient to mingle with interesting people and personalities. Last night I went there again and it was a bit more crowded than on Sunday (it's only a small cafe - I'm surprised people aren't hanging outside from the roof yet) and Knut Elstermann had the following guests: member of the Jury Nina Hoss, directors of Wer Wenn Nicht Wir; Separation; The Queen Has No Crown; Sandra Hüller of The Brownian Movement. Impressive list, I think.

While I was attending this show on Sunday night, Angela Merkel was watching Wim Wender’s Pina at the Berlinale Palast amongst the common folk and with NO special security control or restrictions whatsoever. As a Russian, I’m astounded by this, that would never happen in Russia, just take a look at this presidental cortege and you’ll know what I mean.

…Also, there were rumors about Madonna stopping by Berlinale to introduce the trailer for W.E. I was pretty excited about it (yes, I’m putting it mildly) and then she did come. On Saturday night she checked into Soho House and spent all of 3 minutes presenting the trailer at Berlinale. Not much else is known. I debated going out into the street and looking for her in my pajamas, but decided against it. It’s somehow nice to know that she was around for a while though. Made me remember her live on the Palace Square in St. Petersburg, it was fantastic.

I am happy to report that now I am proud owner of four tickets to the following films:

And all of that only after an hour and 15 minutes of standing on my feet at the ticket office queue. I feel this part is quite poorly organized, by the way.

For instance:
  1. Online tickets are limited and by that I mean extremely limited, I would imagine they do not sell more than 50-80 per film and that’s nothing for this type of scale and level, so the tickets disappear as fast as cold water bottles on a 40C day in Rome.
  2. Also, online tickets are not convenient because you still have to go to the (other) ticket counter to pick them up after purchasing them on the Internet.
  3. Also, online tickets are more expensive... which baffles me! As you know, mostly the stuff you buy online is cheaper and that’s also why a lot of people do a lot of shopping online. Berlinale, however, imposes a fee of 1.5EUR per each ticket (not per credit card transaction). Which, in other words, means they encourage you to queue up and save your rightly earned 1.5EUR.
  4. There are only 6 selling points/cashiers at the main ticket office on Potsdamer Platz. I mean… even in Krasnodar, Russia you have 3-5 ticket selling points in a movie theater and hello, this is the International Berlin Film Festival, one of the biggest movie industry events in the world..?
But… being the positively oriented person that I am (I hear my friends laughing... but Berlin does that me), I have to say it’s all part of the experience. So I don’t mind my feet hurting and a minor case of dehydration, the good thing is that I have the tickets.

I love how the city has livened up even more now! People on public transportation and outside perusing the program, wearing Berlin Film Festival souvenir bags, discussing films. Fascinates me. Glad to be here and to be part of it.

On a side note, I’d like to say that I’m following the numbers for the blog and they’re on the rise! I’m glad people are coming back to read new stuff and there are more and more readers stopping by each week. It’s not as cool with the comments section, so... anyone who has something to say, please feel free and welcome to do so. :)

P.S. Bonus:

Further information on the Berlin Film Festival:


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