Opinion: Berlinale bears its age well | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 16.02.2014
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Opinion: Berlinale bears its age well

The Berlinale has once again impressed the world with its huge film selection. The event in the German capital is a festival for movie-goers - and enriches Berlin's cultural landscape, writes DW's Jochen Kürten.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors can't be wrong. They poured into Berlin and filled the city's movie theaters to the brim over the last 10 days. The Berlinale is very much a festival for audiences. Those with enough patience for queuing up are sure to get tickets - not always to the desired film at the desired time, but at least to one of the screenings.

A new section in the festival bears the name "Berlinale Goes Kiez," or roughly "Berlinale Goes to the 'Hood", which highlights the role of local cinemas - an integral part of Berlin's cultural history, deeply rooted in its neighborhoods. But the motto could just as well apply to the entire event, as the Berlinale reverberates throughout the city, reaching those with an interest in culture.

A broad range of films

The Cannes Film Festival presents the most artistically ambitious films each year, while the Venice Film Festival offers historic surroundings and atmosphere to those who manage to get a ticket to the exclusive event. North American film festivals, on the other hand, screen the largest Hollywood selection - and the Academy Awards are indisputably the most prominent event for English-language cinema.

Nevertheless, Cannes, Venice and Los Angeles do not offer as much variety as the Berlinale. Aside from the main film competition - which draws a lot of attention with its Golden Bear and Silver Bear prize ceremony - numerous other festivals take place in Berlin at the same time. Forum and Panorama, for example, are festivals within the festival, large enough to be prominent in their own right.

All these events feature high-quality cinema. They include history documentaries and motion pictures that are not part of the standard selection in an ordinary German movie theater. The Berlinale has a tradition of socially and politically meaningful cinema - and sometimes the selection includes films that are there to make a statement rather than win a prize.

This year, some were surprised that the Golden Bear was not awarded to the audience's and critics' favorite, the US film "Boyhood" - but the winner, Chinese film "Black Coal, Thin Ice," was also a worthy recipient. In the history of the Berlinale, there have been Golden Bear-winning films that - after the festival - have been largely forgotten.

Fans are spoiled for choice

What other film festival in the world offers screening sessions from 8:30 a.m. until well after midnight? What other festival can give you the choice of seeing a Chinese, Argentinean, Burmese or South African film on one particular day? Sometimes making these decisions can be difficult - but having the chance to make them is part of the fun.

All over Germany, media reports are emerging about the shrinking cultural spectrum in times of shrinking budgets. The Berlinale, however, is a glowing example of a world-class cultural event.

Some of the festival's sections, especially the main competition, could be improved by applying stricter selection criteria and bringing out more artistic genius. But there's no denying that the Berlinale is an overall success. Next year it will celebrate its 65th birthday - and shine just as brightly as in its youth.

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