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    Berlin Film Festival Boom – Art Houses & Cinematheques

    By Ron Holloway | August 18, 2008

    The current Berlin Film Festival Boom owes its vitality to cinematheques in Filmstadt Berlin – like Kino Arsenal in the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz, the venue of the Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek programmed by a team headed by Ulrich and Erika Gregor. Another is the Filmmuseum Potsdam, programmed by Bärbel Dalichow in the Marstall (the royal stables of the Prussian kings). And there’s Zeughaus Kino in Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin-Mitte, headed by Jörg Friess. Series often run simultaneously in all three venues.

    For example, the impressive Retrospective Israeli Cinema – From the Beginning, researched at the archive of the Jerusalem Cinematheque and programmed by Ralf Dittrich and Meir Russo at Zeughaus Kino, was complemented by the 14th Jewish Film Festival, programmed at Kino Arsenal and Filmmuseum Potsdam. Audiences turned out in abundance.

    The Berlin Festival Boom also owes much to “film events” at museums and art houses. Recently, the Asia-Filmfest, programmed at Filmkunst 66 by Franz and Rosemarie Stadler, screened 50 Asian films from five countries. Later, the renovated Haus der Kulturen der Welt ran a retrospective-cum-exhibition titled Re-Imaging Asia that showcased 20 films from eight Asian countries. Another popular film event is the annual Kino Panorama – Russian Film Days in Germany, programmed by Alexander Mamontov and Andreas Strohfeldt at the Kino Krokodil art house in Berlin with support of the St. Petersburg Government and Russian Cultural Ministry. Full houses as expected.

    Interfilm, aka Berlin International Short Film Festival, founded by Heinz Hermanns a quarter-century ago, is flourishing today beyond belief. For the last festival a record 550 shorts from 88 countries were sent for consideration, of which 115 were screened in 66 programs at Berlin art houses Kino Babylon and Filmtheater Hackesche Höfe, including a retro of classic cartoons from the Zagreb Studio. Another fast-growing festival, Around the World in 14 Films, programmed by Bernhard Karl at Kino Babylon, brings art house fare to Berlin from key international film festivals – each film introduced by a Berlin filmmaker!

    The Film Polska Festival, a showcase of 90 features, shorts, documentaries, and animation films (among them Andrzej Wajda’s Oscar-nominated Katyn), was recently programmed at the Filmtheater Hackesche Höfe by proprietor Gerhard Gross together with Kornel Miglus of the Polish Film Institute. The festival spilled over to Filmmuseum Potsdam and Neue Kant Kinos in Berlin. All big time events.

    Emblematic of the Berlin Festival Boom, the 4th Achtung Berlin – New Berlin Film Award, founded by Hajo Schäfer, just completed its run at Kino Babylon

    On the following day, the 37th Sehsüchte – billed as Europe’s Largest International Student Film Festival – opened its doors to cineastes in Berlin and Brandenburg. Organized by students at the Konrad Wolf Film and TV School in Babelsberg, the festival drew overflow crowds to the Thalia Arthouse Kinos in Potsdam. The Berlin film festival boom rolls on!

    – Ron Holloway

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