62nd Berlin International Film Festival
February 9 – 19, 2012
“This was one of the best Berlinales in years, perhaps the best of the Kosslick era. Everything was just right: there were strong films and the film market was the best attended since its creation. Ticket sales reached a new record.” – Peter Zander, Berliner Morgenpost, 19.02.2012
Following the intoxicating transformations and revolutions of the previous year, global politics were marked by a somberness in 2012. The crises in finance and in the Arab world proved to be permanent, the euro had to be saved month after month, and the hopes linked to the Arab Spring were overshadowed by current events in Syria: “In Syria the Arabellion isn’t confined to one spring. In Syria the bloodbath is stretched over the entire year,” wrote Tomas Avenarius in the Süddeutsche Zeitung two days before the beginning of the festival. In the midst of this climate of disillusionment, the cinema illusion machine was ruptured in the form of the 62nd Berlinale, which was highly praised by critics and audience alike, a festival which knew how to dream and provide a new perspective on the pressing political events in the world.
The 2012 opening film came from France: In Les Adieux à la Reine (Farewell My Queen) the old master Benoit Jacquot depicted daily life amidst the royals in the final days of the French Revolution of 1789 and the slowly growing unrest in Versailles in light of the news of the people’s rebellion. Parallels to the current political upheaval were swiftly drawn. On February 10, 2012 Wenke Husmann wrote on zeit.de: “Basically what we’re seeing is an analysis of the end of a form of government, as it continues to happen today.”
At the opening gala festival director Dieter Kosslick and Anke Engelke, who again provided lively moderation for the opening night, introduced the members of the International Jury 2012. The English filmmaker Mike Leigh assumed the presidency of the jury, and was joined by renowned personalities, such as the American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, the actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg and the winner of the Golden Bear 2011, Asghar Farhadi.
Surprising and surprised winners
When, ten days later, following a strong, much-praised Competition, the Jury again took the stage in the Berlinale Palast to present the awards, Mike Leigh and his co-jurors surprised both the audience and the critics. Favourites like Christian Petzold’s Barbara (Silver Bear – Best Director), Bence Fliegauf’s Csak a szél (Just The Wind) (Jury Grand Prix – Silver Bear) and Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (Alfred Bauer Award) had already received their honours before the announcement of the main award, while the Golden Bear went to the great Italian directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. In Cesare deve morire (Caesar must die), they tell of the unbroken power of art – inmates in an Italian prison stage Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, through which they gain another perspective on their own lives.
All were pleased over the joy of the Congolese actress Rachel Mwanza, who unexpectedly won the Silver Bear for Best Actress for her performance as a child soldier in Rebelle (War Witch) by Kim Nguyen. She made her way to the stage overjoyed – as did the male recipient: Mikkel Boe Følsgaard received the Silver Bear for Best Actor in Nikolaj Arcel’s historical drama En Kongelig Affære (A Royal Affair). The co-production from Zentropa also secured a second award: Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg took the Silver Bear for the Best Script. The German cameraman Lutz Reitemeier was honored for his exceptional artistic work in Bai lu yuan (White Deer Plain) directed by Wang Quan'an. And, as if the jurors had already sensed the partially critical reaction to their main decision in advance, they presented an additional special prize not foreseen in the festival statutes: the French-born and Swiss-raised Ursula Meier received a Silver Bear for her film L’enfant d’en haut (Sister), which had been discussed as a possible candidate for the Golden Bear in the run-up to the awards ceremony.
The pleasure of the audience
The Berlinale again lived up to its reputation as the world’s biggest audience festival, which could be seen not just in the ticket sales statistics, but also every day on and around the Red Carpet. The enthusiasm of Berliners knew no limits and they were rewarded with countless stars. Shah Rukh Khan caused a near state of emergency at the premiere of Don – The King is Back (director Farhan Akhtar) in the Friedrichstadt-Palast. To name a few more who came: Diane Kruger, Juliette Binoche, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Clive Owen, Isabelle Huppert, Andie MacDowell, Michael Fassbender, Keanu Reeves – a non-stop flow of celebrities. They were only trumped by the buzz surrounding the young actor Robert Pattinson, whose new haircut dominated the headlines for days. Expectedly, the critics distanced themselves from the sensationalism and were simply thankful for the good films that they could enjoy beyond the tabloid chatter: “The Competition impressed with world premieres and many thematically and artistically relevant films – as unknown as many of the names might still be. Such talents become big names through clever festival programmers, smart juries – and passionate audiences (Jan Schulz-Ojala, Tagesspiegel, 20.02.2012).
February 14 saw frenetic celebration of one of the most outstanding actresses in the world of film: Meryl Streep received the Honorary Golden Bear for her lifework. The supposedly so-critical members of the journalistic class gave presents to the American during the afternoon Press Conference for The Iron Lady, while she nonchalantly spoke about Margaret Thatcher’s accomplishments in the struggle for women’s liberation. The spread of unscrupulous neo-liberalism as the one and only valid global ideology seemed to be forgotten amidst Streep’s charm, which enchanted the fans on the Red Carpet that evening. Jake Gyllenhaal, who has been befriended with Streep’s son since childhood, held the laudatory speech and a deeply moved Meryl Streep accepted the award. Shortly after the Berlinale she was slated to receive the Oscar for her Thatcher portrayal in Phyllida Lloyd’s film. The Homage was also dedicated to the American actress and showed a selection of her works.
In 2012 the Berlinale Cameras went to the central founding father of new German film, Haro Senft, the revolutionary of cinema sound Ray Dolby and the Studio Babelsberg, which celebrated its 100th birthday. This was also the occasion to honour the Brandenburg studio with a small retrospective – ten films from ten decades of studio history.
A new venue
The Berlinale was able to win a new venue in 2012 – the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. The possibilities of the building were tested with film talks which took place following each film screening. The series began with a bombshell: Angelina Jolie presented her directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey and brought Brad Pitt along for the premiere – the Haus der Berliner Festspiele was packed to the hilt. After the screening the American filmmaker discussed her motives and techniques with Jasmila Žbanić (Golden Bear 2006 for Grbavica). The following days saw further highlights with Werner Herzog, Keanu Reeves, Javier Bardem and others on the programme. The format for the events was deliberately kept open with discussions between filmmakers, audience discussions, expert discussions – whatever fit best to the film of the evening.
"Berlinale Goes Kiez", the special series that was launched for the 60th Berlinale and has since brought the Flying Red Carpet to neighborhood repertory cinemas, continued to be a huge success in 2012 and the cinema operators enjoyed sold-out theatres.
In Panorama, the Finnish, partially crowd-funded Iron Sky by Timo Vuorensola caused a stir in the media. A group of Nazis escapes to the dark side of the moon in 1945 in order to try to conquer the world in 2018 – trash and exploitation with Götz Otto and Udo Kier. But the Panorama 2012 focused on the Arab Spring and made its contribution to the thematic focus of the Berlinale 2012. With films such as The Reluctant Revolutionary, the opening film of Panorama Dokumente, in which the British filmmaker Sean McAllister travels to Yemen in order to portray the country’s last tour guide and stumbles with his protagonist into the beginning of the Yemeni Arabellion. Romuald Karmakar threw the perspective of the democracy movements in the Arab world back towards Germany and with his purist cinematic documentation screened at an event in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, showed how people, fascinated by faraway revolts perhaps forget how much freedom is endangered in their own countries. Christina Bylow wrote in the Berliner Zeitung on February 15, 2012, that Angriff auf die Demokratie – Eine Intervention (Attack on Democracy. An Intervention) was an "Outcry that was long overdue." Apart from genre movies and political films, the queer memory – always a core part of the Panorama – formed the third pillar of the programme.
Strong entries in the sections
As in 2011, intergenerational conflict was a central theme in the Forum. The section focused on the blind spots of global image-making, with an emphasis on the tsunami and ensuing nuclear accident in Fukushima. Three films from three different directors, each who approached the invisible heart of the disaster. Praise was heaped upon the small series dedicated to the nearly extinguished Cambodian filmmaking of the 1960s and early 1970s. Christoph Terhechte’s team managed to bring viewable prints of three works to Berlin. They were shown as representatives of an entire generation of Cambodian filmmakers that was nearly totally annihilated when the Khmer Rouge took power. Andreas Busche wrote in the tageszeitung on February 2, 2012: “What was shown on the screen couldn’t be outdone in terms of creativity, folkloric curiosity and primitive fantasy in the most beautiful sense […]. When, later in the night, the lights went on in the cinema, we felt as if we had just awoken from a dream.” The praise was all the more beautiful since the Cambodian cineastes of that time effectively refused to give in to demands for faster, more precise reports and political engagement.
With Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank), the Forum displayed a good measure of self-irony: What does a Filipino film need to be shown at the Berlinale? A trash dump, starving kids and a story of abuse! No sooner said than done! The Forum did in fact invite the director Marlon N. Rivera and his team to Berlin. “The subject is the exploitative mechanism of the global festival circus, which is thoroughly capable of controlling the image production of countries that are marginal in terms of the film industry, until the next ‘young, wild cinema’ is discovered in a far-flung corner of the world and the caravan moves on.” (Alexandra Seitz, Berliner Zeitung, 13.02.2012).
The Generation section entered its 35th year well and section head Maryanne Redpath was happy that its second year in a dedicated venue, namely the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, was as successful as its premiere in 2011. Thematically, many of the films dealt with departures from rigid structures and paths toward one’s true self – which can sometimes be found by returning to one’s roots.
In Perspektive Deutsches Kino the winner of the Dialogue en Perspective award, This Ain’t California by Martin Persiel pleased audiences and critics alike: “With music by Alphaville, Anne Clark, Trentemoeller, Picturebooks and Die Ärzte, the film is a riveting look back to a past, which says much about the lives of young people in the GDR. Martin Persiel never betrays his material, because the authenticity of the overall image stands above the authenticity of the individual image,” wrote Torsten Körner in the Tagesspiegel (11.02.2012). Section director Linda Söffker was able to successfully make it through her second year in the position – which she beforehand openly described as the more difficult of the two. The tendency to invite less projects from film schools and more independent productions continued to leave its mark. Perspektive Deutsches Kino celebrated a premiere with the series "Made in Germany – Reden über Film", which extended the discourse about filmmaking in Germany beyond the audience discussions following festival screenings.
The Retrospective 2012 was dedicated to the (nearly) forgotten German-Russian film studio Mezhrabpom, the "Red Dream Factory" – also the title of the accompanying publication. Following the return of an already canonized auteur – Ingmar Bergmann – in the Retrospective 2011, the critics praised the newly awakened ambitions of the festival organizers: "This unknown chapter in film history lies at the center of this year’s Berlinale Retrospective – the first in a long time that has contributed to film-historical research." (Gerhard Midding, Die Welt, 10.02.2012)
Under the motto “Changing Perspectives“, the Berlinale Talent Campus celebrated its tenth anniversary. The mixture of (public) discussions, tailor-made programs and courses, established filmmakers and young talents, is now a permanent fixture of the Berlinale. Around 150 experts came to the events in the Hebbel am Ufer theater, including Keanu Reeves, Tony Gatlif and Brillante Mendoza.
The European Film Market reported record visitor numbers; 1739 international buyers came to the Martin-Gropius-Bau and the Marriott Hotel – the best result since its formation. An especially positive trend was that Chinese buyers are displaying more and more interest in international film.
The individual sections contributed so much to the euphoria displayed by guests, visitors and critics towards the 62nd Berlinale. Rather than trying to catch up with the latest global events, the 2012 festival found its own way between actuality and reflection. It turned out that cinema, even if it wishes to influence the construction of reality, is strongest as a space for reflection, away from the round-the-clock news reports. “Slowness has become a valuable commodity. This applies to current or only recently current events. But it applies also to the stories that we tell about ourselves” (Verena Lueken, FAZ, 17.02.2012)
Facts & Figures of the Berlinale 2012
|Total amount of theater visits||444,402|
|Accredited guests (press excl.)||15,923|
|Countries of origin||130|
|Countries of origin||86|
|Number of films in the public programme||360
(incl. 106 short films)
|Total amount of screenings||909|
|European Film Market|
|Film industry participants||7,920|
|Number of films||761|
|Number of screenings||1,090|
(Martin-Gropius-Bau & Business Offices)
|Number of exhibitors||403|
|Berlinale Co-Production Market|
|Countries of origin||46|
|Berlinale Talent Campus|
|Countries of origin||87|
|Annual budget||€ 19.5 million|
|The Berlin International Film Festival receives € 6.5 million in institutional funding from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media in accordance with a decision by the German Bundestag.|