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Exploring the history of the Berlinale through photos

Jochen Kürten db
September 27, 2018

The exhibition "Between the Films — A Photo History of the Berlinale" reflects not only how the film festival evolved over the years, but also shows what goes on behind closed doors and beyond the red carpet.

Deutschland | Ausstellung Zwischen den Filmen – Eine Fotogeschichte der Berlinale
Image: Deutsche Kinemathek/M. Mach

Berlin can be pretty drab, even in the summertime — at least that's the impression you might get visiting the exhibition "Between the Films – A Photo History of the Berlinale" at the Deutsche Kinemathek (German Cinematheque). The fact that many photos are black-and-white may add to that impression.

Even though the Berlin Film Festival used to take place in summer, West Berlin, separated from the East by a wall along a heavily guarded border, was good for gloomy pictures, as shots of a shivering James Stewart on Ernst-Reuter Square, or Claudia Cardinale in front of the infamous wall at the Brandenburg Gate show.

The Berlin Wall had just about vanished from the cityscape when director Billy Wilder returned to the German capital in 1993, but by then, the festival set in February was often accompanied by grey skies and icy streets.

Beyond Hollywood glamour

The creators of the photography exhibition delved into archives and came up with astonishing pictures. What characterizes this show are not the typical glossy and glamorous red carpet photos, but moments captured beyond the festival glitz.

Random and casual photos reflecting the fashion of the day, the zeitgeist and everyday culture as well as consumer trends make the collection particularly interesting, the organizers say.

jane fonda 1966
Jane Fonda smiles into the cameras at the Berlin airport in 1966 Image: Deutsche Kinemathek/M. Mach

Rain and grey skies

Beyond the glamour of the red carpet, the exhibition shows how the film festival's official photographers have been capturing unique moments showing the stars in town, on the fringe of the official program.

In Berlin, the symbolism of a wall cutting through a city was everywhere and caught the eye. The dreary side of the West Berlin was never far from the glitz, or the stars from regular citizens.

Clearly, other film festivals have much better weather. A photo history of the festivals in Venice or Cannes would presumably be an entirely different story. Photographers would have to look long and hard for gloom on the Cote d'Azur, and Venice always looks spectacular too.  

Sidney Poitier signing autographs
Sidney Poitier signing autographs in 1964Image: Deutsche Kinemathek/H. Köster

The exhibition gives a glimpse of what happened between the film presentations in sections that focus on the fans, the stars, politicians, parties, fashion, couples, the movie theaters and Berlin itself, a city at the heart of the Cold War that symbolized for years a divided world. 

The exhibition "Between the Films - A Photo History of the Berlinale" presents works by photographers Erika Rabau, Gerhard Kassner, Heinz Köster, Mario Mach, Fumiko Matsuyana and Christian Schulz from September 28, 2018 to May 5, 2019 at the Deutsche Kinemathek.