I’ve been living in Berlin for almost ten years, but I have yet to feel excited about the “Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin”, aka Berlinale – our annual movie festival (think Cannes, but less … everything). One profound reason for my continuous apathy, even though I do consider myself a passionate movie-aficionado, is that I just can’t be arsed to study the incredibly complex, bureaucratic, and overbearing system behind the program and purchase of tickets, or finding out which movie is in what category, cinema or even worth paying for.
However, this year I’ve made the incredible sacrifice of my precious time for all of my peeps who are equally as confused.
What is this Berlinale?
The Berlinale is Berlins annual film festival. Movie makers, from newcomers to renowned international Hollywood names, submit their movies to the festival. They are usually screened for the first time for such a large audience. But not all of the movies that are screened during the Berlinale are part of the actual competition.
The 68. Berlinale will take place from 15-25 February 2018. Ticket prices depend on screening, category and date, but start at 4€.
What should I do and in which order?
There are exceptions to everything, but broadly speaking, this is what you have to do to watch a movie at the Berlinale festival:
- Check the official program and find a movie you’d like to see (I’ve listed my recommendations further below)
- Choose your preferred screening time and place from the program.
- Ticket sales begin 3 days before the screening, so if the screening is on Sunday, 18 Feb, you should be the first one at the ticket booth on Thursday, 15 Feb.
Which categories of the Berlinale exist?
This is actually just a broad overview of the categories. While stumbling through the program, you will actually see many more sub-categories and other classifications, but don’t get wound up about it, just make sure you know what you’re getting into, or otherwise you’ll end up booking a ticket for an Asian 4 hour one-take silent black and white arthouse flick.
The big competition. Nineteen movies are screened at the 2018 Berlinale, the best motion picture gets the “Goldener Bär” award. There are a few more honorary prizes, but basically, that’s all you need to know. Five additional movies are screened in this category but outside the competition.
Movies of any format that run up to a maximum of 30 minutes. 22 movies are screened for the Goldener Bär in this competition, too.
The more artistic category of the Berlinale, usually screening newest works of young and also renowned directors and expands from classic feature films to documentaries.
Where it gets a bit more radical and experimental (think avant-garde or long-term documentaries). The Forum Expanded category transcends into the physical and demonstrates related video or cinematographic installations across the city. Like don’t pick a Forum movie if your favorite film is White Chicks?
Children’s and young adult category.
Perspektive Deutsches Kino
Category for young German filmmakers who’ve submitted a movie of any format that is at least 20 minutes long
Presents extraordinary and new productions as well as series (Berlinale Series)
The category about culinary movies. The main movies of the category are accompanied by an haute cuisine menu, and since 2014, a little street food market is part of the “culinary cinema” too. The movies will be re-played without the menu and screenings after 8 pm come without the food.
Berlinale Goes Kiez:
A cross-section of all Berlinale titles are coming to a local indie theater near you! This category is fantastic for movie-lovers who, like me, hate to leave their neighborhood.
Presents movies that have been screened before. This year, the topic is centered around the Weimarer Republik (i.e. the 1920’s of Germany)
How can I buy tickets to the Berlinale?
Aha! This is where the horror begins. I can’t even begin to make sense of the bureaucracy involved, but I’ll try to sort it out for you.
Sales for tickets to Berlinale screenings start on February 12 daily, 10AM-8PM at
- Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, Alte Potsdamer Straße 7, 10785 Berlin
- International, Karl-Marx-Allee 33 / Ecke Schillingstraße, 10178 Berlin
- Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Schaperstraße 24, 10719 Berlin
- Audi City Berlin, Kurfürstendamm 195, 10707 Berlin
You can buy tickets to your preferred screening 3 days in advance (if you luck out, you can even buy them online via the booking feature – but don’t bet on it). There are some exceptions:
Tickets for screenings at Friedrichsstadtpalast, HAU and Berlinale Goes Kiez can be bought at the respective venues from the 12th of February.
Via Mary, I also found out that “for a €2 surcharge you can get tickets for ANY screening that is for sale at ANY Berlin ticket office (Koka36 on Oranienstrasse, for instance). Just be sure to note down the ticket code for your chosen screening beforehand (find it in the printed program or on the website) so those poor devils won’t have to wade through all the Berlinale events to find the one you mean.”
There’s so much more to buying tickets, but honestly at this point there’s no use in explaining anymore. You just gotta wing it like the rest of us.
Which movies should I watch at the Berlinale 2018?
Here are my recommendations and trust me, you won’t find any weird experimental stuff here.
The world premiere of an unconventional documentary about a an intriguing subculture by filmmaker Leilah Weinraub: ‘Shakedown’ was a series of parties founded by and for African American women in Los Angeles that featured go-go dancing and strip shows for the city’s lesbian underground scene. Showing the protagonists backstage and in interviews, this intimate chronicle reveals that ‘Shakedown’ was more than just a strip club; as one of the few spaces for lesbian subculture, the club brought together and galvanised a community of freaks and queers of colour, and for that it suffered police reprisals.
If you ask me, that beats your regular night out at KitKat, and should make for a fantastic documentary.
Berlinale website, USA 2018, World Premiere, English
Zentralflughafen THF (Panorama)
Everyone knows I’m obsessed with airports, and specifically Tempelhof, which was liberated from its destiny as construction site for luxury housing while I was already living in Berlin. I’m more and more fascinated by the fact that history is being captured while it’s being made. Documentaries such as this work of Karim Aïnouz are snapshots of our present day.
Since autumn 2015 several hangars of former Tempelhof airport have been providing temporary shelter for refugees. Like the other 2,000 people here who have fled their homeland, Ibrahim from Syria and Qutaiba from Iraq dream of being able to make a new start. Full of hope, they work with translators, doctors, language teachers and job agents to prepare for life in their new German home. Karim Aïnouz spent a year following these men in search of a place they can call home.
Berlinale website, Germany / France / Brazil 2018, World Premiere – Arabic, English, German, Russian
7 Days in Entebbe (Competition)
Although the movie 7 Days In Entebbe is screened within the “Wettbewerb” category, it’s one of the screenings which is out of competition. I really want to watch José Padilha’s new work, as I was highly fascinated with Tropa do elite (Elite Squad), his gritty Brazilian feature that brought him to international fame (and won him the “Goldener Bär” in 2008). 7 Days in Entebbe promises to be equally thrilling:
On 27 June, 1976 four hijackers seized an Air France flight. The plane was on its way from Tel Aviv to Paris, the hijackers were two members of the PFLP (The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and two German members of the left-wing extremist group, Revolutionary Cells. They held over a hundred hostages – mainly Israelis – for a whole week. As in his earlier works, director José Padilha uses real events as an opportunity to explore themes of fear, violence, destruction and self-destruction.
ALSO, Rosamunde Pike <3
Berlinale website, USA/UK 2018, English
Bad Banks (Berlinale Series)
I know I said I’m a movie enthusiast (I did work in a movie rental shop for two years when they still existed in lonely suburbian Germany), but I’m really not. Truth be told, I’m a professional series binger, and Germany is getting a lot better at producing native series. Stuff like Netflix’s “Dark” or Sky’s “Babylon Berlin” was actually pleasing to watch, albeit still not quite there yet. However, the future looks promising for productions of that caliber, and I’m quite excited for the ARD production “Bad Banks” which will premiere during the 2018 Berlinale.
Ambitious Jana is confronted with the unscrupulous, profit-oriented machinations of the world of finance. Her working life is determined by egotism, the pressure to succeed and machismo. She soon has to decide how far she is prepared to go for her career.
Berlinale website, Germany / Luxembourg 2017, German, English
Denmark (Generation 14plus)
You know, I read those movie descriptions and I watch the excerpts (I don’t watch trailers. Never. That’s kinda my thing. But the excerpts are great, because they give an overall vibe of the movie without giving away the whole storyline), and yet sometimes I have no idea whether its a documentary, a feature, an experimental film, whatever.
Anyway: Denmark caught my attention, because reading the brief reminded me so much of my own childhood.
Norge and his friends live in the moment: drinking, smoking and partying; always with something to talk about. When 16-year-old Josephine tells Norge that she is pregnant, there is only brief moment of silence. As they grow tentatively closer, the two young people start to develop feelings which challenge their previously held views of life and of themselves – although ‘love’ is not necessarily a word they would think to use. Without judgement and with respectful proximity, Kasper Rune Larsen’s debut film paints a realistic portrait of young people and the complex multiplicity of their realities.
Berlinale Website, Kasper Rune Larsen, Denmark 2017, Danish
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot (Competition)
Urgh, Gus Van Sant. I mean, that guy is a prodigy, sure. But he’s also super annoying. The only reason I want to watch DWHGFOF is because I love Jonah Hill and I want to see what he’s become.
John has a penchant for off-colour jokes – and a drinking problem. And so, when somebody he met at a party suggests they go on an all-night bender in L.A. he simply can’t refuse. But after falling asleep in a drunken stupor on his drinking buddy’s passenger seat, he wakes up the next morning in hospital, a quadriplegic. Becoming a wheelchair user for life at the age of 21, he now requires every last drop of his sense of humour to rediscover meaning in his existence. He is aided by Annu who brings back his lust for life, as well as Donny, a hippie whose unconventional Alcoholics Anonymous meetings draw together people from all walks of life and help them see things from a whole new perspective. John discovers beauty and humour in the depths of human experience and uses his artistic talent to turn these discoveries into brilliantly observed cartoons.
Berlinale Website, Gus Van Sant, USA 2018, English
Game Girls (Panorama Dokumente)
I see a pattern here: I love well made documentaries, which means I rarely watch any. And I love documentaries about people who rarely touch the surface of mainstream media. Game Girls, like Shakedown, seems to be one of those rare gems.
Skid Row in Los Angeles is the infamous ‘homeless capital’ of the USA. Anyone who is trying to learn the rules of the game and survive here has a really tough time, as the stories of the two protagonists of this film, Teri and Tiahna, reveal. Life for this lesbian couple is a constant round of prison, alcoholism and drug peddling, but there is hope, too. Their biographies are typical for the lives of Afro-American women living on the edge of American society.
Berlinale website, Alina Skrzeszewska, France / Germany 2018, English
Generation Wealth (Panorama Dokumente)
All of you have watched The Queen of Versailles while binging through your Netflix queue at one point or another. Filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield returns with another documentary about decadence, wealth, and money:
For 25 years, the focus of US American photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield’s work has been money, wealth and people who want to live a life of luxury. Following her studies in visual anthropology, Greenfield began to train her lens on the species ‘American Dream’ and started portraying those who aspire towards boundless materialism: ‘If plenty’s good, then more is better’, comments one protagonist. In Greenfield’s dense and entertaining documentary she shines a light on the beginnings of her work, sets off in search of the models who appeared in her early photographs and observes the lives of those whose desire for prosperity has become their driving force and chief purpose in life.
Sounds like a fun movie to me.
Berlinale website, Lauren Greenfield, USA 2018, English
Western (Lola at Berlinale) – Program
Storkow Kalifornia (Perspektive Deutsches Kino) – Program
Der Himmel über Berlin – Wings of Desire (Berlinale Classics) – Program
MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. (Panorama Dokumente) – Program