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Berlinale 2004: The Talent Press

It's Worth It!
By Pamela Biénzobas

I had the enormous pleasure of being part of the first "generation" of The Talent Press, the Berlinale Talent Campus' initiative for a dozen film critics and journalists under 30 to spend a week covering Campus events and reviewing Berlinale films.

A pleasure indeed, not because it was the first opportunity to do this on a daily basis — many of us already had a professional background — but because of how it was done. This certainly was unique. A cross between a workshop and a cinephile feast, the project gathered us, eleven critics aged from 19 to 29 and coming from Asia, Europe, Oceania and America (unfortunately our colleague from Zimbabwe could not come); plus our EFA host Pascal Edelmann, our editor Oliver Baumgarten from Cologne-based "Schnitt" magazine and our first-rate tutors: FIPRESCI secretary general Klaus Eder, The Guardian's Derek Malcolm, Boston Phoenix's Chris Fujiwara, Aruna Vasudev from India's Cinemaya magazine and Peter Cowie, one of the most experienced film-trade journalists. We worked together day to day; we discussed our stories and reviews, and, wherever we met and at whatever time of the day or night, went on talking about our common passion.

Personally, I come from a country where being a film critic means reviewing the six or seven weekly releases — most of them mainstream Hollywood — and where there are no serious university film studies apart from a couple of semesters in careers in the arts or communications fields. That is why I made the effort to follow postgraduate studies in France, though that meant ceasing my regular activity as a professional film journalist. It's easy to feel pretty isolated and aimless in this path.

But I came back from Berlin with renewed energy, enthusiasm and clarity. I know I am part of something. Each one of the people working in that typing room in the House of World Cultures motivated me one way or another. Each one made me want to rush out and catch up with those films I haven't got round to; sit down and write without feeling it is sterile work; develop my reflections on certain theoretical issues about which I was starting to feel there was nothing I could say... From the zeal and tremendous film culture of the youngest to the kindness and support of the tutors (I must mention what a great experience it was to have Derek Malcolm as my 'mentor for a week'), and essentially everyone's eagerness to try to raise the level of our discussions regardless of the very casual atmosphere, it all made you feel it was very much worth it.

I know this enthusiasm is shared. We seriously discussed giving this week's work some continuity by maintaining a regular publication where other young critics, and of course the next generations of The Talent Press, could join in; and those with contacts at film festivals in their country talked about trying to establish similar initiatives at a local level.

So, if someone wonders whether this new idea of having a Talent Press in the Talent Campus was worth it, my answer is that it definitely was.

Pamela Biénzobas (Chile)
© FIPRESCI 2004

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It's Worth It!