Acting Sustainably

A festival history stretching over more than 70 years means a process of constant change. From the Berlinale’s beginnings in a war-ravaged city to the euphoria of a reunified Berlin to the most pressing issues of our time. And, acknowledging its place in a world in flux that is constantly facing new challenges, the festival has now been experiencing a further transformation for quite some time. Year by year, it is consistently building upon its efforts towards thinking and acting in a sustainable way – from a social, ecological and economic perspective.

An awareness of the planet’s dwindling resources, the importance of an inclusive and respectful social interaction and the significance of cultural education and of building networks for future generations are at the centre of a mindful awareness that runs right through the Berlinale universe. The foundation of this continuous transformation is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations which, thanks to the support of Engagement Global, were presented to the public during the festival’s 70th edition with the #17Goals project on Potsdamer Platz and in the Berlinale Social Bus. The European Film Market has also been strengthening its sustainability since 2020 with its – recently updated - Sustainability Manifesto, and has been focusing on making the topic visible and audible at its events and via the EFM Podcast.

Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian on the “green” Red Carpet in 2020

Rethinking Due to the Climate Crisis

The shouts from the photographers during February nights in Berlin, the stars walking the red carpet in front of the Berlinale Palast, the fans excitedly seeking an autograph: even the most iconic and prominent image of the Berlinale is part of the shift towards a greater sustainability – though this may not be visible at first glance. Thanks to the support of Object Carpet the Red Carpet is actually a circular “green” one since 2019, consisting of only two materials and therefore fully recyclable. And the fact that the lighting outside the Berlinale Palast was switched to LED lights in 2020 has certainly not detracted from the sparkle of the celebrity appearances. Along with the “green” Red Carpet, many of the festival’s merchandise items are now made from recycled material and are chiefly manufactured in Europe to avoid long supply chains. In addition, old Berlinale banners and other materials are upcycled into new products.

Since the limits of growth have long been exceeded, reduction and avoidance of waste must be our top priority. For this reason, the trays filled with promotional material were removed in 2010. Since 2016, numerous print products have been phased out in favour of a single comprehensive publication printed on recycled paper. This booklet has been produced in a climate-neutral way since 2022: the Berlinale Programme Brochure. Single-use options have gradually been replaced – whether it be plates or coffee cups.

The Berlinale’s evolution in terms of environmentally conscious action can be seen above all in one of the most fundamental aspects of human existence: nutrition. Since 2006, food and drink at the festival has been continuously, and since 2020 entirely, switched to vegetarian catering to counteract the global devastation caused by factory farming and meat production. And, since 2014, the Berlinale has been offering exclusively fairly produced soft drinks in partnership with Lemonaid and ChariTea.

The question of mobility is also fundamental to a greener future. Here, too, the Berlinale is setting an inspiring example. Since 2012, an event ticket in cooperation with Deutsche Bahn has enabled inexpensive and environmentally friendly travel to the festival by train. Two years later, all Berlinale driving services transitioned to electric cars and, for the first time at the 73rd Berlinale, a cooperation with Uber meant VIP shuttles are now equipped with sustainable hydrogen technology. In addition, since 2022, CO2-intensive trips have been offset with local MoorFutures projects that protect the climate by renaturing peatlands.

The current crisis shows just how fundamental questions about the future of energy actually are. As early as 2010, the Berlinale set off on the path to energy-saving action by having its CO2 footprint calculated by the Öko-Institut e.V. – an initial step that led to the adoption of many further measures. For example, a switch to 100 percent green electricity in 2011, leading the festival to receiving the EMAS environmental management seal of approval from the European Union for its year-round office operations for the first time in 2013 – and every year since. With the aim of underpinning climate protection and resource conservation measures, the Öko-Institut e.V. is remeasuring our climate footprint as part of the National Climate Protection Initiative.

All this ecological change is being intensively supported and expedited by the festival’s climate working group which was established in 2015 and is dedicated to sustainability.

At the TEDDY AWARDS 2012

Embedding Social Sustainability

Participation, a sense of openness and a joy in discourse are among the festival’s outstanding features. As part of a film community that acts and is connected on a global level, the Berlinale is committed to diversity and the removal of barriers, to respect, gender equality and accessibility. The festival’s diverse film programme offers audiences the opportunity to travel around the world and become acquainted with “foreign” cultures, milieus, ways of life, attitudes and perspectives – and thus to break down prejudices and borders. Time and again, works presented at the festival highlight social inequalities. Year after year, the festival organisers and its visitors are prompted to question what they take to be “normal” – which is often only based on accustomed habits – and to reflect on familiar ways of thinking and tear down barriers and divisions in an exchange with artists from all over the world. With this in mind, the 2019 festival saw its signature added to the “Berlin Declaration of the Many” which takes a stand against right-wing populism and for artistic freedom.

The Berlinale has a long tradition of bringing visibility to the marginalised and oppressed and insisting on equal rights for everyone whom society tries to exclude. The Panorama section is recognised as a trailblazer of gay and lesbian cinema, initiated the very first queer film award, the TEDDY, as early as 1987 and has made a significant contribution to the fact that queer cinema constitutes today an integral part of global filmmaking.

Since 2004, the World Cinema Fund has been supporting work in regions with a weak film infrastructure, thus also placing the focus on the marginalised. A Diversity & Inclusion initiative launched at the European Film Market (EFM) in 2018 and the decades of commitment to diversity, global networking and a respectful team spirit fostered by Berlinale Talents – all these building blocks contribute to one of the festival’s guiding principles: to be a place where everyone is welcome and can participate. It is in this spirit that the public programme at the Berlinale is being continuously expanded with services such as audio descriptions and sign language for people with disabilities. The festival is constantly working to remove existing barriers and to develop more inclusive services.

The Berlinale aims to create a safe space for all festival participants and one that fosters respectful, mindful and equal coexistence. To this end, the Anti-Discrimination Code of Conduct defines the rules of social interaction at the festival in accordance with Germany’s Grundgesetz (Basic Law) and General Equal Treatment Act. In addition, an Awareness Team of trained anti-discrimination advisers is available during the festival period to record reports of violations of the Code of Conduct and to advise those affected by discrimination. In the digital realm, a Social Media Netiquette guide promotes rules for relevant and respectful communication.

At Generation in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2018

Learning and Forming Networks

Education is one of the key skills required to create an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable future and is therefore one of the guiding lights of the festival. This becomes particularly evident in Generation, the festival’s section for children and young people, and in Berlinale Talents.

The Generation programme makes it possible to experience the most diverse living environments and perspectives of young people from around the world and, with its age recommendations, offers children and young people access to the festival. The section promotes cultural participation and representation with live German voiceovers for the youngest viewers, German subtitles, film questionnaires and the children’s and youth juries which decide on the awarding of the Crystal Bears in the Kplus and 14plus competitions. In addition, the Berlinale school project in cooperation with the VISION KINO network for film and media education has actively supported the integration of Generation films into school curricula since 2006. The materials resulting from this initiative are published every year and provide a lasting impetus for film education work in schools and beyond.

Education and personal development are in no small part a matter of exchanges and of learning from one another. This is why Berlinale Talents connects more than 200 filmmakers from all around the globe every year. The alumni community emerging from this is now one of the largest in the world, with almost 10,000 members hailing from a wide variety of cultural and social backgrounds and from over 130 countries. Since 2020, the talent initiative has been awarding fellowships in the scope of Talents Footprints and the Mastercard Enablement Programme, which see mentors and coaches help the award-winning talents and alumni to further develop their film-related social initiatives, cultural platforms and self-funded networks with the aim of ensuring these projects have a sustainable effect on the local environment, quality of education and better working conditions. And, with its Kompagnon Fellowship and the Berlin Film Residencies, Berlinale Talents is also helping to establish a new and more holistic approach to talent and career development that not only carefully evaluates a current project but also the social needs of everyone involved.