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Culture

The Film Farmer Goes to Market in Berlin

On Saturday, Dan Talbot and his six colleagues on the Berlinale jury will present their picks for the film festival’s top awards. DW-WORLD spoke with the New York film distributor and movie theater owner.

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Talbot keeps quiet about his personal Berlinale favorites.

Dan Talbot came to the movies by way of collecting stamps. As a young boy growing up in New York, he owned colorful editions from such far-away places as France, China and Zanzibar. “I think that was the beginning,” the 77-year-old says during a conversation with DW-WORLD in the Berlinale’s VIP lounge. “It ignited my imagination about the outside world.”

Talbot became a regular movie goer and re-enacted scenes on the street with his friends. Much later, he ended up running the New Yorker Theater. He also founded New Yorker Films and became a leading importer of foreign productions, bringing the work of German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder to an American audience, among others. Talbot now owns Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, one of the city’s premier venues for foreign and independent movies.

Power in his hands

For ten days, however, he has taken a break from his regular duties to join the jury at this year’s Berlinale. It’s a relatively novel role for Talbot, who says he only sat on one other jury at a film festival before.

“I love it, but it’s a lot of work,” Talbot says, adding that he’s watching at least three films a day. “Seeing a movie as a juror is very different from seeing it as a distributor. As a distributor I make professional judgements. Here, I have the responsibility of giving out awards. I don’t like to have power in my hands, but that’s what’s happening.”

Has he walked out of a screening so far? “I’m not going to answer that,” Talbot says and smiles. Despite his schedule as a jury member, Talbot still tries to catch a few other movies on the side. “I feel like a farmer going to market, looking for good stuff,” he says, wearing a “film farmer’s” all-black outfit with orange and purple festival badges as the only spots of color.

Bringing Lenin to New York

While searching for new stuff, Talbot has already lined up another movie for his theater. He’ll be showing German blockbuster “Good Bye, Lenin!,” a comedy about a young man who conceals the fall of the Berlin Wall from his ailing mother. The movie failed to gain an Oscar nomination for best foreign film this year, but Talbot still believes that it will find its American audience. “It’s a very German story, but I think it transcends its Germanness,” he says. “It’s a human story. So many people’s lives were affected by the Wall.” Then time’s up. After two press interviews, Talbot gets ready to head back to the festival when he’s told that the next team of journalists is waiting with questions. “Another interview,” he asks, almost in disbelief. “I’m like a movie star!”

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