Germany's biggest film festival tries to cuddle up with Hollywood, but Penelope Cruz has bailed at the last minute and Richard Gere only came to see Angela Merkel. DW's Gero Schliess says it's time Berlinale got a life.
Berliners wish the Berlinale film festival all the best. Above all, that it achieves the same position in the film industry that Berlin has claimed for itself in real life: the center of the universe.
They want that the center of the film industry, otherwise known as Hollywood, relocates to the banks of the River Spree. At least temporarily, for 10 days every February. Whether that has finally happened this year has been subject to heated debates. Berlinale regulars complain - over mate ice teas - that there was more Hollywood in Berlin back in the (g)olden days. They make it sound like the festival's downfall is imminent and inevitable.
Tabloid journalists, on the other hand, seem to think nothing is amiss.
"Gala" found "lots of glamour" on the red carpet, and "Bunte" gave out top marks in its Berlinale party review - especially for its own party.
But what I wonder about is why much Berlinale reporting has been dropping just one particular name conspicuously often this year: Richard Gere.
Gere meets Merkel
Richard Gere was the only international Hollywood star to make a red carpet appearance, though he had a more important appointment with our "Pretty Woman," Chancellor Angela Merkel. While Gere's film "The Dinner" was showing at the competition, he was talking politics with the chancellor. It's actually perplexing why Berlinale hasn't tried the "meet a German politician" solution before in its hunt to bring Hollywood to the German capital.
Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick on the red carpet with Monika Grütters, Germany's culture minister
Could Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen have escorted Leonard DiCaprio to Berlin using Germany's last functional A40M transport plane? Or could our charming Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel have used his diplomatic finesse to get Penelope Cruz to rethink her last-minute cancelation?
And why has the Social Democrats' candidate for chancellor, Martin Schulz, not proven to be a Hollywood healer? Doesn't his rising star shine all the way across the pond an illuminate Sunset Boulevard - or are the hard-working people of California not part of his target group?
Stop fussing over Hollywood?
But seriously, why all the effort? What if the Berliners just sat back and relaxed and left all this Hollywood hype to other film festivals. Now in its 67th year, the Berlinale has become a senior citizen among festivals.
That means it's old enough to feel confident about its own potential - which includes its ability to serve as a barometer for social and political developments.
And when it comes to that subject,it's true that the "T word" has hardly been uttered this year - but on principle, so as not to give the new US president more attention than he already is getting. Nevertheless, the unspeakable proved to be the proverbial elephant in the room. Mexican director Diego Luna for instance, along with many other Berlinale participants, made abundantly clear what he thought of the White House plans:
Responses to Donald Trump's policies came not only in the shape of tweets, but especially through film. So much so, that I got goosebumps - from the ruthless deconstruction of the American middle-class in "The Dinner" (with Richard Gere) to "The Wound," a South African drama about a young gay man who is sent by is father to a circumcision ceremony in the countryside.
Not to mention the many examples of indigenous cinema that led me into an archaic and doomed world. This is not something you will find in Cannes or Venice, and certainly not in Hollywood.
So, let's just forget about Hollywood and celebrate the Berlinale!