Berlinale 2011: Dieter Kosslick Interview

Claus Mueller :   You have been running the Berlinale for 10 years now. What are your most important achievements and what were the biggest challenges?

Dieter Kosslick:  We have achieved what we wanted; the festival is younger through our initiatives such as the World Cinema Fund. We have a great market this year which has become one of our biggest challenges, there are lots of side bars which offer programs for specific target groups Thus there is no need to do much more.

CM:   What about the expansion of film festivals?  According to Bruno Chatelin (M21Editions, Paris) there are more than 4500 festivals and you probably have thousands more not officially listed. In New York no week seems to be passing by without a new one that is announced. Thus, is the Berlinale becoming more important as a filter for good films, for setting criteria, or is it getting less important?

DK:   Well, we were prepared for this because I saw this development a long time ago and we took initiatives. Last year we had more than 40 films in world premieres which resulted from these initiatives [such as Talent Campus, World Cinema Fund, etc], thus I really don’t care about the multiplication of festivals. It becomes  a little more difficult sometimes because some  big films which we would  liked to have  for Berlin are going to other festivals, although it does not impair us in any sense.

CM:   This is due in part of you setting up a supply chain

DK:   Yes at the end of the day we can support ourselves

CM:   What about the surplus of film productions?  Beki Probst  [Director of the European Film Market] has argued that too many films are produced. Today’s article in Variety showed that over the last couple of years  European production increased by 28%,  though at the same time there has been a decline of theatrical distribution. What is your interpretation?

DK:   In the industry connections are established frequently between the number of films produced and the box office. If the production number is high there is also a probability that there are more successful films but there is no linear relation.

CM:  Are you suggesting that there are more good films? In my interviews with Peter Scarlet [formerly Tribeca], Richard Pena [NY Film Festival], Geoff Gilmore [Tribeca, formerly Sundance]  there seemed to be a  consensus that the surplus production of films has not resulted in having more good films, though these films may be absorbed by the growing number of film festivals. As a matter of fact Beki Probst argued [when the 2011 European Film Market opened] that in the art house film segment, there was a notable decline in quality.

DK:   I understand but am not sure that I do follow this argumentation in light of quality of the films we selected.

CM:   Let’s switch to another prominent theme. The increased use and appetite for 3D in the commercial, consumer, and possible art house sector. Reliance is setting up a large 2d to 3d transfer facility in Mumbai which appears to be totally booked out.  What do you think of that development?

DK:   I really do not know. We had for the first time in our official selection four 3D films, 3 in competition, one in panorama and we are very satisfied since it shows that you can use this new technology for the art house cinema in very different ways. Just compare Wim Wender’s Pina to the approach taken by Werner Herzog in Caves of Forgotten Dreams, and compare this to the French Les Contes de Nuit (Michel Ocelot) in the animation sector.  Pina proved that it can be a great success if you use the right technique with the right subject. And to quote myself 3D is exciting as long as it is applied in the right way.

CM:   The progressive development of technologies for the visual media, going as far as simulation of senses such as smell seems to be accompanied by an increase of time and expenditures spent on the consumption of visual media. At the same time less money and time is spent on print media. What is your reaction to that development?

 

DK:   I am not sure if it goes this way, but I am convinced that books and newspapers will survive. It is true that young people use more electronic audio visual products. But in Germany the increase in the sale of books has never been observed on that scale before, though the books are very expensive, thus I am not afraid of this development.

CM:   May be the Germans are different from the Americans.  I certainly observe a decline in literacy at the university where I am teaching. One of the themes at this year’s Berlinale has been the use of social media what are some other tendencies you observe. ?

DK:  Yes, but let’s put it differently.  Berlin is the center of the world and you can see in festival selections what is happening in the world. You sometimes go back to your hotel room and watch television from different countries but are not sure where it is from Algeria, Iran or Tunisia or are we watching a film from the Berlinale.

CM :  Thus the Berlinale is an ongoing movie?

DK:   It is indeed an ongoing movie…. But in this world and not in another one

CM :  To return to this world, the trade press is filled with articles about cut backs in public funding for films. Most frequently mentioned is the EU’s MEDIA program. If there are substantive curtailments how will it affect the Berlinale and film making?

DK:   First I am not convinced that the MEDIA program will disappear. It is simply too successful. I understand if people object to setting up a film market in a developing country with European funding but I will fight for the survival of the MEDIA program.  The MEDIA program has achieved to bring Europeans together and without their funds it will be tough.

CM:   Well I certainly noticed  while covering film festivals that each year a growing number of films selected for the top festivals had been co-funded by arte, EU initiatives such as the MEDIA fund, and European film foundations, though HBO becomes also prominent as a funder in the documentary area. If there were to be a decrease in public funding for the Berlinale can you compensate for that by getting money from the private sector?

DK:   Yes we can but I do not think we should. We can do this but I would rather concentrate on the programs than to race for sponsors since there are certain limits for that. You see we want to take care of our sponsors, we want to make them visible in the festival and that is only possible if you limit the number of sponsors. If we do not have enough public money we need to operate differently but I am convinced we will have sufficient public money to run the Berlinale.

CM:   Certainly there is public responsibility to support.

DK:   Yes but also keep in mind the taxes raised and other income derived from the Berlinale is double the amount of the public money given to me.

CM:   Thus they should double he support?

DK:   Well I was asking for that but did not get it

CM :  About a year before you started in Berlin I asked you in Düsseldorf [where Kosslick served as the head of the NRW film foundation] if you would leave for the Berlinale and you provided an ambiguous response. Several nights ago at the arte reception you were introduced by the French secretary of culture, Frederic Mitterrand, as a prospective Minister of Culture for Germany with the clear implication that you may be a candidate for that position.

DK:   I loved that but the French unfortunately have no power to make me a minister.

CM:   You said unfortunately, would you consider such an offer?

DK:   No, I am joking…. I will answer that question once it is asked

CM :  Thank you Minister

Claus Mueller
filmexchange@gmail.com

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