Last year was an outstanding year for German cinema. Now, as the 54th International Film Festival Berlin kicks off, it’s time for the stars of Germany’s film industry to sit back and enjoy the attention.
So many movies, so little time.
The Berlinale gets underway on Thursday with film fans flocking to the German capital to bask in the warm celebrity glow of the global stars and directors who will be arriving throughout the ten days of glamour and glitz.
But it will not only be the heat from the bright lights that will warm Berliners attending the shows and events that make up the festival circus. Germans from all over the country can also revel in the feeling of pride that Berlin’s film gala and the German movie industry as a whole is currently enjoying a surge in international profile, popularity and profit.
“It's been one of the best years ever for cinema in Germany,” said Dieter Kosslick, the festival’s director who has turned the Berlinale into a showcase for German productions and has helped it secure its place behind Cannes and alongside Venice as one of Europe's three most important film festivals.
“As long as I'm the head of this festival, its backing for German films will remain high,” Kosslick said in an interview with reporters in the run-up to the festival’s opening. “I've never had to push for German films because I've always found them to be very good. It was always other people who had problems with them.”
From Nowhere to a Miracle
German director Caroline Link holds the Oscar for "Nowhere in Africa."
Those problems have been fading ever since “Nowhere in Africa,” a film about the challenges facing a Jewish family who flee to Kenya after the Nazis take power, won the Academy Award for best foreign language movie last March. That Oscar and a string of domestic box office hits have put Germany’s film industry back into the international spotlight.
“It's obviously been a great year for German film,” said Rolf Baehr, chairman of the German film board, in an interview with Reuters. “German films are now reaching audiences with good stories.”
“Film makers are concentrating on viewers more and not focused on their own self-realization. The experience and training are also greatly improved. It's all coming together.”
The successes of films such as “Good Bye, Lenin” -- the comedy about a son who conceals the fall of the Berlin Wall from his ailing mother, and the World War II drama “Rosenstrasse'', has helped the domestic market share climb to about 15 percent in 2003 from around 11 percent the year before.
Good Bye, Lenin. Hello success.
“Good Bye, Lenin,” which won six European Film Awards in December, topped Germany's box office last year with over 6.5 million people turning out to see the film, generating nearly €31.9 million ($40 million).
“The Miracle of Bern”, a film about West Germany's 1954 World Cup winning soccer team, and the biopic “Luther” also scored with audiences inside and outside Germany, and film makers are hopeful the festival will herald another big year.
Interest in German films rises
“Thanks to Caroline Link's Oscar (for Nowhere in Africa), there's now a lot more interest in German films from abroad,'' said Romuald Karmaker, a German director whose film “Nightsongs” is one of 23 competing for the top Golden Bear awards.
The director told reporters: “The entire atmosphere is completely different now,” referring to the past when the Berlinale featured very few German films in its program. “The attention we're getting now is absolutely essential.”
Katja Riemann holds the "Coppa Volpi" for best actress at the 60th Venice Film Festival.
Apart from director Link’s Oscar, Germany’s profile has also been raised by performances -- Katja Riemann (picture) won a best actress award at the Venice film festival in September for her performance in as the Aryan wife of a Jew in Nazi Germany in “Rosenstrasse” -- and the use of German locations in major Hollywood productions.
Location of choice
“Enemy at the Gates,” the star-studded depiction of the siege of Stalingrad during World War II, was filmed at the refurbished Babelsberg Studios south of Berlin. Hollywood star Matt Damon has rekindled his German links in the latest installment of his spy franchise by filming “The Bourne Supremacy,” the sequel to the Franka Potente co-starring original “The Bourne Identity,” in Berlin. Oscar winner Kevin Spacey is also directing his film “Beyond the Sea” in the German capital.
Berlin has been in direct competition with the three other major media metropolises in Germany -- Hamburg, Cologne and Munich -- for the favor of the film-makers. And it seems that the capital is coming out on top in a competition where no one in Germany is ultimately losing out. According to the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW), more than 1,000 film and television enterprises are currently taking advantage of Berlin’s allure.
All in all, it adds up to a satisfying backdrop for the glamour that the German capital will be host to for the next ten days.