While Sydney was sweltering, Berlin was shivering, but the pleasures of Berlinale aren’t to be found outdoors, they’re in the cinemas. And there are plenty of screenings to choose from, with around 400 films in the public festival and almost 750 participating in the European Film Market. By my reckoning that’s two or three thousand sessions. Choosing which film to attend is one of the trickier aspects of Berlinale, and usually involves hours of reading schedules and program guides, not to mention numerous cups of kaffee.
Making sure you see all the hot ticket items, the one-screening-only titles, while keeping room for meetings, late recommendations and additions, is a little-heralded festival programming skill. Then, when you’ve worked out your viewing schedule, there’s the question of tickets. Many screenings are industry-only, but with over 8,500 market delegates you have to consider the size of the cinema, and length of the queue—arrive late and you could miss out. However, Berlinale isn’t just an event for professionals; over 300,000 members of the public attend, and some people queue from 6am for in-demand tickets. Delegates pick up tickets for that day and the next from 8:30am each morning, and as the first screenings of the day start at 9am. Everyone in the queue is in a hurry. Next it’s a nervous dash out onto icy pavements—probably the only exercise of the day—or a ride in a shuttle bus to screening venues.
After all this planning and argy-bargy, taking your seat in the cinema can be a Zen-like experience. Now back in Sydney, the bustle left behind, it’s the films that resonate, and there are some great titles coming your way. So, when the Sydney Film Festival program is announced in early May, sharpen your pencil and mark up your calendar, full of anticipation for that moment when the lights go down.
Programs Manager, Documentary Programmer