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Culture

Berlinale Director: "Films Now Are Looking at the Effects of War"

The countdown to the Berlinale is on. For 10 days, director Dieter Kosslick will preside over this premiere film festival, although that doesn't mean for the other 355 days of the year Kosslick can sit back and relax.

Dieter Kosslick

Dieter Kosslick has been director of the Berlinale since 2001

Dieter Kosslick has been the director of the Berlin International Film Festival since 2001. Under his direction, the Berlinale has become one of the world's leading film festivals and direct competition for Cannes and Venice.

The festival now attracts top stars in directors to the German capital during its two-week run. Kosslick has initiated the addition of new components to the festival such as the World Cinema Fund and the Talent Campus which support young filmmakers, specifically from developing countries.


DW-WORLD.DE: Mr. Kosslick, what does a film festival director do during the 50 weeks of year that the Berlinale is not running?

Dieter Kosslick: In principle, the same thing that he does during the festival. He talks with people, watches films, looks for new ones. He tries to maintain his contacts and make new ones. Above all, he attempts to sell the festival in such a way that people will want to come -- bring their films to the Berlinale and not to some other festival.

That means you travel from festival to festival?

No, not from festival to festival, but I do go to some so that I can see what other people are doing. How do they organized things? What are the trends? So, really, it's a year-round job. You shouldn't forget that during the year, we have about 15 people working in the festival office. Now, by the time the Berlinale actually starts, that number has swollen to 1,800. It's an enormous organization that kicks off in September and runs through the end of March. So there's not really that much time outside of that. It leaves me about half a year, so I take six weeks vacation and the rest of the time I'm on the road.

Dieter Kosslick in conversation with Jochen Kürten

Dieter Kosslick in conversation with Jochen Kürten

You are considered a good communicator. How important is it to have good relationships with others in the business?

That is basically always good, not just in our field. But since for six months of the year we are talking about products that don't even exist year and about which we only know the ingredients -- I mean the stars, the director, the subject matter -- communication is especially important. It's important to be able to talk to them and it's good when everyone gets along. There's nothing worse than when a film has been poorly placed in a film festival. That's bad for the film and not good for the director either. So it's good to talk in the film business and above all, it's good for festival directors.

It's been known for a while now what film is going to open the festival, "The International" by Tom Tykwer. Was it difficult to get this film for the festival?

We talked about that one for a long time. It's a Tom Tykwer film on a huge scale. It's not just called "The International," but it was actually shot internationally. With such a big production, there are of course a lot of complex forces at work. But in this case, we were in agreement with the studio, Sony, as well as with German associates of Sony, that we absolutely wanted this film for the Berlinale. So we all combined our forces to make that happen. Now we're going to have a film that people are going to marvel at, especially due to the fact that it's being released during the financial crisis. The film is about the financial machinations of banks. That is a film for our time.

You've been visiting different festival for several months now. Is there something that you can identify as a new regional or thematic trend?

berlinale poster

The Berlinales has become serious competition for Venice and Cannes

There are definitely trends. Many films deal with the wars around the world, but not like they have during the last few years when you've seen war-related events or battles and soldiers on the ground. Today, many films are now looking at the effects of war, what it can mean for a four-year-old child to lose his father, for a newly married woman to lose her husband on the battlefield. And what does it mean when soldiers return to "normal" society after they've spent two years being drilled to kill. Directors are looking at more personal situations now. That doesn't surprise me, but it is surprising that the subject has become so important in so many different countries. Of course, it's a subject that has an impact on the whole world.

Any other trends you've noticed?

More and more films -- a lot of documentaries but also large staged productions -- are focusing on food, on food production. You read about it every day. There is a movement starting up, and I'm not just talking about environmentalists. Everyday people are standing up and saying, it can't go on like this! It's an important subject and will be an important one at the Berlinale this year. At the beginning of the festival we're going to show a film called "Food Inc." that uncovers manipulation in the food industry. The magnitude of this is similar to that of the financial crisis. It is an international, apocalyptic scenario. If people don't start thinking differently, and especially if production methods are not changed, we're soon going to be experiencing in the food industry what we are now experiencing in the banking sector or even in our own bank accounts -- a real disaster.

Jochen Kürten interviewed Dieter Kosslick (jam)

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