Berlinale Day One: International Jury Press Conference
Two recent events, that had shocked the international film scene, did also becloud the atmosphere of Berlinale’s opening. The scandal around Woody Allen’s alleged sexual assault of his daughter and the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman were inevitably among the topics of the press conference presenting this year’s international jury.
James Schamus, the president of the jury, is an exceptionally productive producer, script writer, distributor and scholar. The festival surely aims to profit from Schamus’s mastery in balancing between commercially oriented film productions (keyword ‘Hollywood’) and art-house cinema. This balancing act exactly has characterized Berlinale programme selection for many years. Apart from his contributions to many celebrated films (Far from Heaven, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Lost in Translation, Milk, Dallas Buyers Club, The Kids Are All Right), Schamus produced several Ang Lee films and co-written the screenplay of Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Schamus appears to have deep rooted interests in China.
Recently, China is making a lot of headlines with its aspirations to boost its cultural exports and to compete with the soft power that the American commercial culture has been exercising globally. ‘Chinese cinema is going global,’ said Tony Leung, Chinese actor and film director. ‘There will be more and more Chinese films on international film festivals.’ Indeed, China is represented with three films in this years Competition section alone.
What is Berlinale’s role in a world where moviegoing as a shared experience is in decline. ‘Moviegoing as an experience is not declining,’ replied Schamus. ‘If you go to places like China, where they are building seven cinema screens a day. And these screens are serving younger and younger audiences.’
Hoffman, Allen the Professional Hazards of the Film Industry
Referring to Hoffman’s death, a reporter from Reuters asked whether the acting profession is becoming increasingly hazardous. Schamus, laughing off the question replied: ‘Maybe. But not quite as dangerous as certain forms of journalism, such as yours for example.’
Feeling confident in his role as the president of the jury, Schamus answered himself every single question that was not directly addressed to somebody specific. Half jurors are actors themselves and I would much rather hear anybody else answer that question.
Invoking Woody Allen’s recent troubles, a journalist asked the jury to which extent ‘ethical moral and ethical considerations’ are involved in its decision making. ‘I believe that moral and ethical decisions were already made by the selection committee.’ was Schamus’ diplomatic answer.
Michel Gondry’s contribution to this year’s festival is a double one. He is both a member of the jury and a contributor to Panorama section with his own documentary about Noam Chomsky Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?. The director of the successful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), for which he received an Academy Award, nevertheless made a humble and slightly confused impression. ‘Christoph here, he even got two Oscars,’ said Gondry, ’this is extremely rare.’
Waltz the Charmer and the Reserved Ladies
Christoph Waltz, undoubtedly the star of the jury, acted accordingly. Eloquent, sharp-witted, almost elusive, and slightly arrogant, but still charmingly so. When asked how will he go about his new task of judging the filmic performance of others, he replied that ‘there are no basic principles according to which one evaluates a film.’ As to the differences between Cannes and Berlinale, he added: ‘One major difference is the lack of a beach in Berlin. While Berlinale is definitely trying to set bolder standards than Cannes, the food is still said to be better over there.’
It has been a tradition of Berlinale to invite Iranians to be members in its the jury every single year since 2011. Initially in part a reaction to the unsuccessful 2009-2010 election protests in Iran, this has since become a yearly political statement against a regime that limits the freedom of cinematic expression.
The somewhat timid Mitra Farhani (born 1975) had to hold her ground, distancing herself from from the impression of one journalist that her participation in the jury is but a great career opportunity for a young filmmaker: ‘I’m old enough to judge others’ films.’
Others jury members Greta Gerwig, Trine Dyrholm, Barbara Broccoli were not exceptionally talkative. And I too should probably wrap it up here.
Cafebabel Berlin covers the 64. Berlinale Film Festival
We love film and we've got a lot in the pipeline! You will find daily updates right here in the magazine or on Berlin.Babel.Blog and @CafeBabelBerlin. Expect exciting movie reviews, interviews with stars and photographic glances from the festival grounds.