Listening to the City Too at an Outdoor Berlin Film Festival

BERLIN – On Thursday night, the mood at the Hasenheide open-air movie theater was upbeat. A crowd of about 200 people had gathered for the screening.seedA German drama about a construction worker struggling to care for his daughter in a rural part of the country. Despite the serious subject matter, members of the audience conversed and drank beer, and a slight smell of pot smoke permeated the air.

The screening was part of the Berlinale Summer Special, a one-time outdoor version Annual Berlin International Film Festival, one of Europe’s most important and the world’s largest in terms of audience. Unlike the continent’s other top film events – Cannes and Venice – the Berlinale, as it is known here, prides itself on catering to locals and is a cherished entry on Berlin’s cultural calendar.

After canceling its regular edition this February due to the pandemic, and An online version in March For industry professionals, the festival is now showcasing most of its selection to the public At 16 outdoor locations across the city. Around 60,000 tickets are available for the event, which runs until June 20.

It is also doubling up as a kind of coming-of-age party for the city as it emerges from months of lockdown – a massive revival whose enthusiasm was impossible to ignore. During a tense fight scene in “The Seed” on Thursday, the audience’s concentration was slightly spoiled by pulsating house music coming from a nearby forest, which has become A popular site for illegal raves.

This year’s two-part Berlinale is also a bold experiment in the structure of a film festival. By holding its industry-oriented events – press screenings, jury awards, a film market for distributors – online and separately to the wider public, it has raised the question of whether such a two-pronged strategy could allow film festivals to not only Have to preserve but expand your overall impact even beyond the pandemic.

Tobias Goltz, 34, who attended the screening with friends, said the Summer Festival was an improvement over the regular edition. “It feels more Berlin, less commercial. There are no 150 camera teams.” He said that, for better or worse, the lack of international visitors had made it a more local affair. “You feel like you’re one of the Berliners.”

two directors of the Berlinale, Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Risenbecki, settled on a two-part structure last November to prevent the festival from being canceled altogether. At the time, Rissenbeck recently recalled by phone, it had become clear that the fast-spreading coronavirus would outlaw a regular Berlinale. They decided to delay all individual events until the summer, in the hope that vaccinations and other measures would reduce infections and allow the event to proceed.

Rissenbeck said there were some advantages to conducting a digital edition for the film industry in March. He said the online version of the European Film Market, which is usually one of the largest trade fairs for films and television shows, had more participants this year, and that online screenings for critics “made the festival less likely to be covered by the media.” It was allowed that it isn’t usually covered by.

But he emphasized that the experience was not ideal, and it reaffirmed his belief that no major festival can run without concurrent events for the industry and filmmakers.

“The film market thrives on films being shown simultaneously to the audience,” she said. “Buyers notice how movies resonate with audiences and think, ‘This might work in my country.’ And journalists notice that if the audience likes a film more than they like, and that can affect their view.”

The external version, he explained, was particularly important because it fulfilled the festival’s longstanding mandate of appealing to regular Berliners. “It’s a very diverse city, and at Berlinale, we raise social themes that people can connect with,” she said. “This festival is a milestone of sorts.”

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Organizing the outdoor edition was made challenging by the changing dynamics of the pandemic in Germany. after a silence, The number of infections started increasing again in March, raising fears of a severe third wave of the virus. In recent weeks, however, numbers have dropped once again, and city officials have allowed the festival to go ahead. Still, attendees are required to show negative coronavirus tests on the same day to gain access to events – a requirement made possible by Germany’s elaborate free testing strategy – And wear a mask when not in your seat.

This task was also made easier by the fact that, due to Berlin’s abundance of open spaces and parks, many of the city’s districts have at least one large outdoor cinema. “The Berliners are very experienced with the open air,” Rissenbeck said. “They know they should bring a rain jacket.”

The festival’s outdoor setting has transformed the Berlinale into a more relaxed and independent one. Instead of the usual formal gala, this year’s opening event – ​​a screening of “The Mauritania”, a play about a Guantanamo prisoner starring Jodie Foster – featured prominent German actors and politicians, some wearing sandals and shorts, outside picnics. They were eating supplemental hummus boxes balanced on their knees.

About 30 minutes into another screening on Thursday — of “introductionLoud music (buskers?) started playing from a nearby bridge – a quiet film by Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo. The music came in the form of the film’s protagonist, a lovable young man, in an awkward conversation with his girlfriend. But the experience was strangely thrilling: as with the loud noise of a nearby subway, it is often difficult to distinguish whether the soundtrack is from the film or the city.

The outdoor version offered a bit of catharsis for filmmakers who were accepted into the festival but were unable to show their film on the big screen in March. Barbara Cronenberg, 40, said filming her first feature, a children’s film called “Mission Ulza Funk”, was interrupted for months by the pandemic, and she was sad that she could not show it in theaters once completed.

On Wednesday afternoon, she stood behind a projection booth at an outdoor screen in the city’s Newcoln district, horrified to hear the reactions of the audience, mostly children. The film, a clever comedy about a girl who chases a meteorite across Eastern Europe while fleeing her religious family, sent the children and their parents into laughter.

“It was nice to see where people were laughing,” she said, feeling relieved behind a black mask. “You don’t make movies so you can watch them yourself.”

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