Friday, 3 February 2012

Berlinale 2012 - Programme/ Competition/ Now Complete

The programme for the International Competition is now complete, the Berlin Film Festival has announced.

Though due to the rescheduled date for the Academy Awards ceremony which has once again been brought forward, the programme does feature less US productions than usual. However, in my opinion that is a loss the Berlin film fest can live with. If anything, it's a gain, not because US films are so bad - no! - but because these films will eventually be released the world over, anyway, and therefore don't really need the support of a major film festival as a launching pad at all.

Let's face it, the main reason why Hollywood used to feature so prominently in the Berlinale's Competition was because of the Hollywood glamour these films added to a festival which otherwise has a dearth in star power - stars, that is, that are known the world over. Not that any film festival - let alone one like the Berlinale which for years has been known as a political festival, and one with a focus on Asian and eastern European cinema - necessarily needs star power or Hollywood glamour. But it's the sponsors that require it. Like everywhere else - money talks, and it's the sponsors providing much needed cold, hard cash, that are calling the shots. At least to a degree. For if French cosmetics giant L'Oreal agrees to shell out some dough they expect to be associated with the likes of Scarlett Johannson or, if unavailable, Paris Hilton (or perhaps not Paris Hilton ...), rather than some, in their eyes, C-List ding-dong from some eastern European country Paris Hilton wouldn't even be able to pinpoint on the map. But every time I see these so-called Hollywood stars schlepping across the red carpet in Berlin's - usually - freezing cold weather, answering the - usually - silly questions by the German media, for some Berlinale entry which - usually - had its US release weeks ago, I'm finding this act, put on for the sake of the sponsors, increasingly ludicrous. Let's face it - Berlin will never be Cannes. Temperatures below zero, the non-existent palm-trees and, of course, the relative absence of Hollywood stars, just can't compete with the splendours of La Croisette. It is my opinion - and it has been for some time - that Berlin would be well advised to distance itself from Cannes. In other words, rather than trying to imitate it, the way to go is to focus on its reputation as a political festival and get completely rid of the titbits of glamour there were, including that silly red carpet. Berlinale discoveries that fall under this category are the festival's strong suit and are generally among the best films to be found in the fest's official programme. Best case in point is last year's Nader and Sirin, which went on to garner awards across the globe.

This year, however, there's little the sponsors can do, anyway, as Hollywood films are just not available for reasons mentioned above. All this, I think, is to the Berlinale's benefit which, in addition to being blessed with the strongest jury in years, now also has a Competition programme to match. And while I can't say much regarding the quality of the films selected yet, at least the programme as a whole seems more consistent, if not to say more interesting, featuring, as it does, an impressive number of films of little known directors, thus doing exactly what a film festival is supposed to do: providing an international platform for new talent.

Find the Berlinale Competition programme HERE!