As the Baftas and Oscars rally very publicly to the cause of diversity for Berlin Film Festival it’s business as usual showcasing film from far and a very wide global talent pool. True to the founding spirit of this counter culture festival Berlin is nothing if not diverse. Among films in Competition were the latest from leading female directors including smart chamber piece, The Party, shot in black and white by woman director, Sally Potter. Another female British director in the running for the Golden Bear was Gurinder Chadha with her lush and grandiose story of British withdrawal from India, Viceroy’s House. If Sally Potter’s Party went intimate black and white, fellow Brit Chadra offered the the magic splendour of India in multicolour. Their presence was all the more significant given this was the first Berlinale since Brexit.
The festival got underway with a statement of intent with a biopic of Django Reinhardt entitled simply, Django. In the title role was French actor Reda Kateb telling the story of the iconic musician’s turbulent time in wartime Europe.
Though Berlin has long championed the offbeat and the underdog it stills retains an allure for big name sponsorship. In pole position Audi, with their impressive pop-up lounge over looking the Berlinale Palast red carpet where, on the first Sunday of the Berlinale, the festival director Dieter Kosslick mingled withe great and good for a mammoth three hour brunch.
While Audi occupies its own mini HQ at the very portals of Berlinale Palast across the other side of Marlene Dietrich Platz is the very chic and exclusive Golden Bear lounge on the first floor of the Grand Hyatt. This year the lounge was sponsored by Glasshutte – purveyors of high class the eyewear. As delegates spent their time eyeballing the best new creations in world cinema they could take time out to have a tour of the Glasshutte selection. A technician, in white coat no less, was on hand to offer a guided tour of the selection of spectacles. While enjoying canapés and drinks this was a welcome diversion from the hurl burly of screenings, interviews and press conferences.
Some delegates certainly welcomed the chance to test their eyesight after taking in some of the more eye popping and in some cases shocking 2017 selections. These included the raunchy and racy Dream Boat which lifted the lid on the hothouse goings-on aboard a gay cruise ship. On a far grittier level was Butterfly Kisses which told the story of adolecent sexuality in South London. All the action took place in one tower block and was unflinching in it’s portrait of teen love lives in the 21st century, putting a painful spotlight paedophilia and online porn.
The Berlinale is most assuredly a most Germanic affair but it also brings out the patriot in filmmakers the world over. The film market is festooned with a display of flags worthy of the United Nations but it is at the parties that national pride is really allowed to shine though. Particular success stories on the Berlinale 2017 party circuit were Portugal, Georgia, and Thailand.
Though Britain voted Brexit the atmosphere among the British festival goers was unashamedly Remain. Soho House was a buzzing party HQ from the get go and was the place of choice for a festival nightcap. Also waving a post-Brexit Union Jack was the Edinburgh International Film Festival which held their annual drinks party at the British Embassy. Later the same evening the BFI hosted it’s annual bash in in the highly trendy Rosenthaler Platz in a old style ballroom which had distinct echoes of Cabaret and Sally Bowles. The hot ticket attracted a hot crowd for hot dogs and German cake.
The buzzing crowd were partying like it was 1999, when Brexit was only a twinkle in Nigel Farage’s eye. As party goers tipped out into the cold night air they could well have been forgiven for imaging that Brexit was just a figment of imagination because at the 2017 Berlinale it was assuredly euro business as usual for the party goers, filmmakers, the film business alike.
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