59th Berlinale

Germany, February 5 - February 15 2009

The jury

Borislav Andjelic (Serbia), Mihai Chirilov (Romania), Sergi Sanchez (Spain), Richard Cline (), Nils Saeveras (), Andreas R. Becker (), Margit Tönson (Estonia), Gulnara Abikeyeva (Kazakhstan), Enrico Bosten ()

Awarded films

Globalization. German filmmaker Tom Tykwer made a Hollywood thriller (The International). Very French cineaste Bertrand Tavernier shot a film in the swamps of Louisiana in the English language (In the Electric Mist). Imagine. German Florian Gallenberger’s new film develops a Chinese background (John Rabe). On the other hand, the very German story of a former Nazi woman was filmed by British director Stephen Daldry (The Reader). What a mess! Not that the films were bad. They were unexpected. They paid for certain professional skills with a certain absence of a director’s handwriting. It may be the economic crisis on the horizon which lets some filmmakers avoid risks, and lets them test-drive popular forms of genre cinema. It’s maybe not (yet) a tendency. It may, however, indicate a transition — a transition which this-year’s Berlinale showed clearly though probably not intentionally.

The classics of modern cinema. One still knows what one gets from a film by Manoel de Oliveira, Andrzej Wajda, Theo Angelopoulos. What an elegance and composure of narration (Oliveira’s Eccentricities of a Blond Haired Girl). What an eye-catching move through times and places (Angelopoulos’ The Dust of Time). What a painful look back to his and his films’ own history, in Andrzej Wajda’s Sweet Rush. Maybe their time is over — Angelopoulos was born in 1935, Wajda in 1926, Oliveira in 1908. Their films are still there, and among the best ones in Berlin — even if a younger public and the zeitgeist may have problems with them.

The next generation. It couldn’t be better. The international jury, headed by British actress Tilda Swinton and with, among others, Swedish writer Henning Mankell, German enfant terrible Christoph Schlingensief and Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet — awarded the main Bears consequently to young directors, to films far from the temptations of the industry and from the necessity of being popular: The Milk of Sorrow by Claudia Llosa (born in 1976, Peru), Gigante by Adrián Biniez (born in 1974, Argentina), Everyone Else by Maren Ade (born in 1976, Germany). Berlin ’09 marked the arrival of a new generation of filmmakers.

For the rest, fest head Dieter Kosslick, whose contract has just been extended until 2013, manages to make the Berlinale bigger from year to year (this year, he added Friedrichstadt-Palast to the festival venues, a famous and even legendary Berlin revue theater). He enriched the four classical sections of the Competition, the Panorama, the Forum and the Retrospective (“70mm — Bigger than Life”) with a series of additional sections, events, panels, screenings of German films, homages (to composer Maurice Jarre), and a gigantic (but useful) Talent Campus which included “Talent Press”, a workshop for young film critics co-organized by FIPRESCI. (Klaus Eder)