Each Year Berlin Forgets Reality, Plunging into Celluloid Dream

On The Town | Alexander Lass | April 2007

The city of Berlin blossoms each year with its film festival ‘Berlinale’ – the German capital has a bear in their city coat of arms and so the mighty animal is both the festival’s logo and the name giver of the award statues.

At every corner people discuss not only which movie has received which critiques, but also where this critique was written, and particularly by whom – you can feel and almost even smell this 57th Berlinale, that ran this year from Feb. 8 to 18.

The festival has its critics; the Hamburg weekly Die Zeit accused the Berlinale  of going through a "change of life": the artistic requirements are too low and everything has become too commercial. But there are as many critics as there are people here in Berlin, and opinions are often simply a matter of taste.

But beyond the films, many felt that the Berlinale was begin used to cover up the negative aspects of Germany’s capital: The city’s huge debts and the equally monstrous unemployment rate were being shoved aside for the duration of the festival. Others think that exactly these problems can be addressed by the Berlinale – the festival generates huge profits and promotes the city throughout the world, attracting tourists outside of the festival.

But what were this year’s cinematic achievements? The European Film Market (EFM) of the Berlin International Film Festival had another strong year in 2007, according to the festival’s website. This reflects a wider trend: While the commercial cinema is struggling under the pressure of pirated copies, DVDs, and multiplex cinemas seem to be gradually going extinct, Europe-wide film festivals are becoming more and more popular.

The EFM has grown steadily in recent years, a trend that continued in 2007. Approximately 260 companies from 46 countries participated. Over 700 films were shown in more than 1,000 screenings in 31 theatres and video studios.

This year, the main prize, the ‘Golden Bear’, went to Tu ya de hun shi’(Tuya’s Marriage). Jury president Paul Schrader and Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick handed the trophy to Wang Quan’an and Le Wang, the director and the producer of the winning film.

What were the Austrian contributions? With large expectation the German/Austrian co-production Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters) with Karl Markovics was praised by both audience and jury as a very realistic and detailed movie.

But it was young Austrian Anja Salomonowitz who who won over the judges,  with her film Kurz davor ist es passiert/ It Happened Just Before – an exceptional movie on sex trafficking and on the reality of life as an illegal immigrant. This followed a recent award at the last Viennale in Vienna in December.

In Berlin, Salomonowitz received the valuable "Caligari" award young artists.

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