64th Berlin International Film Festival
February 6 – 16, 2014
"The Berlinale has an incomparable atmosphere. I look forward to it every year anew. To the films I see, to the people I meet. [...] The Berlinale is a village made up of people from hundreds of countries. Here, we share our life stories with each other." – Andres Veiel, Berliner Morgenpost, February 6, 2014
The 64th Berlinale began unusually: No snow fell on Opening Night. Instead, a warm February evening welcomed the national and international stars and guests on the red carpet. Ten days later, feelings ran high again at the Awards Ceremony, but not due to the weather. Instead of the highly praised Boyhood by Richard Linklater, a top contender in the Competition programme, Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice) by Diao Yinan received the Golden Bear for Best Film. In addition, Black Coal, Thin Ice leading actor Liao Fan received the Silver Bear for Best Actor. The decision by 2014 Jury President James Schamus and his fellow jurors - Barbara Broccoli, Trine Dyrholm, Mitra Faharani, Greta Gerwig, Michel Gondry, Tony Leung and Christoph Waltz - confirmed last year's trend of boldly pushing cinematic areas seldom recognised at A festivals into the spotlight. "A remarkable designation, a signal. It says, take a look at China, the market is booming there, film art is alive and well there, the world is all wrong there, China is where it's at" ( Christiane Peitz, Der Tagesspiegel, February 16, 2014). Variety head critic Scott Foundas agreed seamlessly with that assessment: "Unencumbered by Cannes and Venice’s reputations as ground zero for the latest work of the world’s most important name-brand auteurs, Berlin has the ability to think a little bit more radically, and to put films and filmmakers in competition who would almost certainly be relegated to a sidebar at one of those other fests" (February 16, 2014).
Director Diao Yinan himself was amazed: "It's really hard to believe that this dream has come true," he exclaimed to the audience at Berlinale Palast. Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice) illustrates the uncertainties of his home country, a genre film strongly reminiscent of film noir that can be read as a mirror of Chinese society, even though the director rejected that interpretation in his official statements. The significance of the triumph for Chinese cinema was evident in interviews following the award ceremony: "The Chinese film market is a very large one. We're already the second-largest worldwide. That's partially due to the size of our population, of course. But I'm sure that this magnitude will also lead to more diversity, that there will be a multitude of forms and genres for a wide array of market sectors in the future. I'm confident that a lot is going to happen." (dpa, February 16,2014)
Canonised filmmakers from the US took home the Silver Bear for Best Director (Richard Linklater) and the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize, awarded to Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, the film that opened the 64th Berlinale. Since Anderson was no longer in Berlin to accept the award, Greta Gerwig read the audience a message in which the director articulated - in all modesty, and in his unmistakably ironic style - his joy at finally winning a real award made of real metal. Two more Silver Bears went to Asia. Actress Haru Kuroki was recognised for her performance in Chiisai Ouchi (The Little House) by Yoji Yamada and expressed her happiness with enchanting reserve; Zeng Jian received a Silver Bear for his camera work in Tui Na (Blind Massage) by Lou Ye.
The winner of the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for a film that opens new perspectives seemed an odd selection. It was awarded to Aimer, boire et chanter (Life of Riley) director and French film doyen Alain Resnais - at age 91! The sad news that Resnais - who couldn't be in Berlin to accept his award personally - died just two weeks after the festival reinforced the impression that one of the cinema's most unusual and significant artists had been honoured for his seminal life's work.
Four German productions found their way to Competition in 2014, and one of them won the Silver Bear for Best Script: Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) by siblings Anna and Dietrich Brüggemann. French-born Berlin resident Guillaume Cailleau pocketed the Silver Bear for his 22-minute film LABORAT, while the Golden Bear for Best Short Film went to his home country - to Tant qu'il nous reste des fusils à pompe (As long as shotguns remain) by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel.
Madness with a method
Aside from the Award Ceremony, memorable Festival moments were most often provided by Hollywood stars. George Clooney set off a week-long press mania in which even Paul Katzenberger - author for the sombre publication Süddeutsche Zeitung - perpetrated a typo and tried to stay cool: "For the makers of the Berlinale, Clooney's appearance of Clooney is of course important as well, and the same somehow goes for audiences." (on February 7, 2014) At the photo call for Monuments Men, directed by Clooney, the film team - including Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray - danced to the Press Conference in conga line style.
Another Hollywood heavyweight made headlines in a more outrageous, off-putting way: To broach the issue of his 'ambivalent' relationship with the press, Shia LaBoeuf quoted footballer Eric Cantona ("When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea") before wordlessly leaving the podium. Later that evening, he appeared on the Red Carpet wearing a brown paper bag stating "I am not famous any more" on his head, ensuring everyone's continued and undiminished attention. By contrast, director Lars von Trier played with the scandals surrounding his person in ironic and self-deprecating style. He wore a t-shirt bearing the Cannes logo and "Persona non grata - Official Selection" to the Photo Call. His work Nymphomaniac Vol. I was enthusiastically received by audiences - especially since actors Christian Slater, Uma Thurman and Stacey Martin were also in attendance on the Red Carpet.
Speaking of Eric Cantona: The Manchester United legend was also in the programme - as a performer in Looking for Eric by Ken Loach, the 2014 recipient of the Honorary Golden Bear and subject of the Homage. The tribute to one of the most committed realists in British cinema received unanimous and joyful approval, as exemplified by Georg Seeßlen in Freitag on February 6, 2014: "Hardly anyone is more deserving of a push to the centre of cinematic attention." As opposed to previous years, only one Berlinale Camera was awarded in 2014. It went to German producer and distributor Karl Baumgartner, whose company Pandora Film discovered art house heavyweights like Andrej Tarkovsky, Jim Jarmusch, Kim Ki-duk and Aki Kaurismäki for the national market. Just one month later, more sad news reached the Berlinale: Karl Baumgartner had died on March 8.
Cinematic heritage threatened
Digitisation of screening copies reached over 95%, and when a film was submitted as a 35mm copy, EFM Director Beki Probst remarked laconically: "I'm going to have the registration form framed and hang it in my office as a memento" (Blickpunkt Film 8/2, 2014). Of course, this development also carries a risk for the heritage of cinematic history. Ernst Szebedits, director of the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, was outspoken: "What isn't made available today is threatened with extinction in the digital age" (filmecho/filmwoche 8/2, 2014). Hence, the Berlinale once again set striking standards in the Berlinale Classics programme. The absolute highlights were the presentations of two cinematographic milestones: The restored version of Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at the Berliner Philharmonie under the musical direction of New York avant-gardist John Zorn, and the international premiere of the 4K-DCPA copy of Nicolas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause. The film, which embodies the definitive triumph of youth culture like no other, was personally introduced by Martin Scorsese. His company "The Film Foundation" was involved in the restoration of the classic.
But the seasoned master also brought a film of his own to Berlin and presented it as a work in progress: Untitled New York Review of Books Documentary. Scorsese, himself a long-time subscriber, co-directed with cutter David Tedeschi, with whom he worked on Shine a Light (Competition 2008). Untitled New York Review of Books Documentary was shown at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, where the festival series Film + Talk was successfully continued in 2014. Among the guests returning to the Berlinale was Erroll Morris, who put a spotlight on one of American politics' grand old hardliners in The Unknown Known: Donald Rumsfeld. The film continues Morris's processing of post 9/11 military interventions and their outgrowths: His 2008 Competition film Standard Operating Procedure focused an uncompromising eye on the human rights violations at Abu Ghraib prison, for which former US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld accepted responsibility.
Films about film
Another high point of the Berlinale Special programme at Haus der Berliner Festspiele was the presentation of André Singer's Night Will Fall. The documentary delves into the bizarre and convoluted creation history of another film, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, a movie made with the raw footage of liberated concentration camps filmed by Allied cameramen in 1945. Political interests prevented the film's completion - despite cloak-and-dagger help from directing legend Alfred Hitchcock - leading German Concentration Camps Factual Survey to celebrate its world premiere in 2014 in Forum, whose section head Christoph Terhechte was very pleased to be able to present the final version. Fragments of the material were first shown in Forum in 1984 under the title Memory of the Camps. Forum also boasted the most lavish Korean production of all time. Seolguk-yeolcha (Snowpiercer) by Bong Joon Ho is a cinematic end-of-days vision with Tilda Swinton and John Hurt, who both attended the premiere. One of contemporary literature's most prominent authors also visited Berlin to celebrate the world premiere of L'enlèvement de Michel Houellebecq (The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq) with Forum audiences. Director Guillaume Nicloux presents Michel Houellebecq as a chain-smoking cameo who is more than grateful for a temporary escape from his bourgeois Parisian life. Though the section's diversity can hardly be conceived concisely, Forum named "The absurdities of the cultural establishment and merciless working environments" as its guidelines in 2014, and fulfilled it with such diverse contributions as Que ta joie demeure (Joy of Man's Desiring) by Denis Côté, who won a Silver Bear in Competition 2013.
Panorama was as fierce as ever. "Changing the world is a matter near and dear to the Panorama heart" was curator Wieland Speck's battle cry. As always, the programme explored the status quo of international cinema, with political undertones clearly resonating in every film shown. One of the few exceptions was 20,000 Days on Earth by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, whose protagonist Nick Cave was enthusiastically received in Berlin. Transfilm, a Panorama staple theme from the start, was once again confirmed in its significance through global political events in February 2014. One day after the start of the 64th Berlinale, the 2014 Winter Olympics began. The venue: Sochi, Russia. In the run-up to the event, Russian president Vladimir Putin had repeatedly begged for attention by using hate speech against homosexuals. The 2014 Panorama programme was also proud to present the winner of the First Feature Award: Güeros by Alonso Ruizpalacios from Mexico. But Panorama also displayed the same tendency clearly visible in the awards towards the end of the festival: a striking array of Asian productions. The main programme, for example, opened with Nước (2030), a post- catastrophe thriller by Nghiêm-Minh Nguyễn-Võ.
Wieland Speck was personally very pleased about the return to Zoo Palast, which reopened in November 2013 after a three-year restoration and served as a premiere venue at the 64th Berlinale. On its website, the venue introduces itself: "The new, lovingly restored Zoo Palast recalls the grand old days of film theatre with its architecture, atmosphere and service". Evoking the glamour of movie palaces past is normally far from Forum Expanded's mind, since the section focuses on the thresholds of film art to visual arts and to the public space. But section head Stefanie Schulte Strathaus emphasised that the movie palace is an integral part of the former and current cinema landscape, and thus a part of the focus for the Forum Expanded 2014 programme. "What Do We Know When We Know Where Something Is?" was the central query, and answers appeared in panels and discussion rounds as well as in the exhibits and films. A feeling of unease with the complete digitisation of the moving image was clearly recognisable in some works that directly focused on the (disappearing) material celluloid. A similar theme was visible in Berlinale Shorts, where nearly a third of all productions were either made with analogue media or focused on the medium of film as a vehicle, and whose theme guideline assigned by curator Maike Mia Höhne was "Mourning".
Forum Expanded awarded a prize for the first time in 2014: the Think:Film Award. It went to Amie Siegel and her film Provenance, which stood out due to its interplay with Lot 248, also in the programme, which shows the auction of Provenance at Christie's in London, both creating and staging reality. As such, it was an example of the emphasis chosen for the 2014 Berlinale: the documental form. A connection was consistently visible in interviews with the section heads: The separation of documentary and fiction film is outdated, and yet can't be completely abandoned, as the relationship between image and reality requires constant renewed reflection. The European Film Market was especially active within the theme, hosting numerous panels and discussions dealing with the status and possibilities of the documental form.
The full extent of the festival's diversity
The workshop character of Retrospective 2014, under the title "Aesthetics of Shadow. Lighting Styles 1915 - 1950" met with positive feedback. Lukas Foerster wrote in die tageszeitung on February 6, 2014: "A film programme such as "The Aesthetics of Shadow" isn't about developing a finished body of work, it's about making new paths in film history visible."
Perspektive Deutsches Kino revived the Midnight Movie, harking back to the American cult films of the 1970s, which permanently expanded the limits of film representation by eschewing cinematic convention. Two films celebrated late-night premieres, and the rest of the 2014 Perspektive Deutsches Kino programme was a success as well: "It's a good year. Very diverse - even previously seldom-seen genres like horror and black comedy are represented - at an artistcally advanced level" (Kirsten Riesselmann in die tageszeitung on February 6, 2014). Furthermore, Perspektive 2014 ventured to a location unusual for the venues of the Berlinale - Raumfahrer (Spacemen) by Georg Nonnenmacher, the depiction of an inmate's inner world, was presented at the JVA Tegel penitentiary as a special screening.
Berlinale Talent Campus renamed itself in 2013, operating under the title Berlinale Talents in February 2014. The name change reflects the professionalism of the programme, as programme manager Matthijs Wouter Knol explained - moving away from a scholastic, academic connotation. The 2014 programme carried on with the workshops Summit, Studios, Project Labs and Talent Press, under the theme "Ready to Play - Breaking the Rules". The talents were challenged to think about playful paths in film development and design, as well as to question entrenched structures within the film business.
Two special Berlinale sections joined forces for a debut event called Culinary Cinema Goes Kiez - a screening of I Cavalieri della Laguna (The Knights of the Lagoon) by Walter Bencini at the independent cinema Eiszeit, followed by dinner and discussion at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. Culinary Cinema provided both gourmet cinephiles with the traditional programme of sumptuous feasts for eye and palate, as well as Berlinale visitors with the Street Food fair on Potsdamer Platz. The Berlinale Goes Kiez screenings sold out at lightning speed as always, not least thanks to prominent cinema mentors like Christian Petzold.
The same procedure as every year
Eleven breathless days - that's perhaps the best way to sum up the Berlinale 2014. The festival was bursting at the seams with energy, events were set up on the fly right before the festival - like the Berlinale Open House format - with storytelling slams, discussions, etc. - in the new Audi Berlinale Lounge near the Red Carpet, or a free special screening of the first two episodes of Season Two of House of Cards was scheduled. The list goes on and on. The voices of those spoilt for choice didn't take long to make themselves heard: "The sheer size of the mammoth event came under criticism once again this year. It's just too big for the critic who at Cannes or Venice only needs to take notice of 50 films, not 200." (Christiane Peitz in Der Tagesspiegel on February 16, 2014) But success speaks for itself - and more than 325,000 tickets sold can certainly be counted as a success. Thus voices were also heard regarding the positive festival developments through Dieter Kosslick's accomplishments to date: "In 2001, he began running the Berlinale in a city in the midst of a metamorphosis - from square and snooty West Berliner affluence to a liberal-progressive governed, 'poor but sexy' metropolis that was suddenly on everyone's itinerary - with its raw unfinished charm, its spooky breaks in history, its wild and dime-a-dozen party world. And Kosslick turned the slightly stiff-necked cultural affair Berlinale into a debonair event with esprit and glamour - and economic significance." (Katja Bauer in Stuttgarter Zeitung, February 6, 2014)
Facts & Figures of the Berlinale 2014
|Total amount of theater visits||491,316|
|Accredited guests (press excl.)||16,148|
|Countries of origin||131|
|Countries of origin||81|
|Number of films in the public programme||370
(incl. 106 short films)
|Total amount of screenings||902|
|European Film Market|
|Film industry participants||8,396|
|Number of films||784|
|Number of screenings||1,109|
(Martin-Gropius-Bau & Business Offices)
|Number of exhibitors||487|
|Berlinale Co-Production Market|
|Countries of origin||50|
|Berlinale Talent Campus|
|Countries of origin||80|
|Annual budget||€ 21 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.|