Berlinale = Hyperlinale

     |    Thursday, der 18. February 2010

It’s almost over and all the participants are showing battle fatigue. The hype worked. After all, all major festivals are essentially just that – hype. A festival has to be an EVENT if it wants to capture everyone’s imagination. In the past, film stars provided the necessary excitement. That still works today, when they show up. Fame equals excitement.

In the olden days, the Berlinale programmed uninteresting films to attract the corresponding superstars to the city.  But they often didn’t uphold their end of the bargain, last minute no shows if something really important came up.

So the festival does without. Forget the prearranged glamourous appearances on the red carpet. We can get bad films without them. Sometimes even, bad is good, if that causes an uproar. Some people really still believe that film festivals are about presenting the BEST films. Especially film critics simulate this expectation, as it is their bread and butter.

While the critics are still searching for cinematic art, Berlin’s chefs are the true providers of good taste. And there’s a film included in the price of admission! (The section is called Culinary Cinema.)

The Berlinale is way ahead of the game. Perhaps it is the most modern of the major festivals. Because it works fine without stars (except Dieter Kosslick, without whom the red carpet would look quite pale). The current and highly effective hype strategy is EXPANSION.

The Berlinale is decentralized, playing in neighborhood movie theaters. Then it’s avantgarde, muscling into exhibition spaces and galleries. It offers expert advice on nutrition, almost en passant displays a penchant for literature (Breakfast&Books) or offers conversation through discussion and lectures. For an open air screening, the festival occupied the Brandenburg Gate. Indeed, the city of Berlin serves as a backdrop to the omnipresent festival.

Soon, the Berlinale will not only be everywhere but also all the time, as it claims space and time. The festival takes place in winter, summer (as an open air screening series) and in autumn (at the Frankfurt Book Fair). And in between, through the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s DVD edition.

The Berlinale also supports young talents (Talent Campus) and promising filmmakers from faraway lands (World Cinema Fund). That’s wonderful. But are there strings attached?