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  • Christian Hain

(Opinion Piece) Berlinale 2018 – Some Preliminary Thoughts

(Berlin.) It’s that time of year again: Berlinale, Berlin’s foremost film festival, the fourth most important film festival in the world – no wait, I guess I’ll have to include Sundance here, so better make it five – the fifth most important film festival in the world, returns! The 68th edition will be the next to last for festival director Diether Kosslick who shares the same age despite not having been born in the same year (the first editions of Berlinale were celebrated biannually; not unlike some actors’ birthdays). It seems rather tough on his - still unknown - successor being compelled to start with an anniversary show in 2020, but there’s no chance, that decision could be retracted. “Sixty-Eighters” count for a specific demographic not only in European societies, defined not by an individual age, but a year. At the moment however, both are congruent: Who was eighteen in 1968 was well a part of it. The generation is widely identified with protest and reform movements, with political uprising and, in the case of former Axis powers Germany, Italy and Japan, home-grown terrorism too. Sixty-Eighters consider themselves still “left at heart”, yet are as assimilated as it gets and live quite comfortably, with a holiday home in the Mediterranean and the most polished bike helmets sparkling from their transcontinental flight baggage. You know exactly what they think about every possible subject of discussion, yet their influence can never be underestimated. About a week prior to the grand opening on February, 15th (many will have gone to the movies only the night before – not really considerate of you, Berlinale!), the festival invited to a press conference in a government owned convention centre. It was then when the names of the Jury members were revealed to the public, and one thing immediately became obvious: There’s less, much less, glamour than in the past, particularly than last year. No Verhoeven, no Gyllenhall or Diego Luna, no, not even Oliafur Elliasson (ok, he’s only known to the art crowd anyway, but still a blockbuster name in these circles). Instead, we get German director Tom Tykwer, who like every decent German director is identified with one movie that typically becomes part of their name: “Tom (Lola Runs) Tykwer” - presiding over Cécile de France (NOT French, but Belgian, actress!) for the eye candy, Chema Prado (professional photographer, critic, and jury member from Spain), Adele Romanski (US “Indie” producer), Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japanese OST composer), and Stephanie Zacharek (American critic). Not quite the same level of “wow”, don’t you think? Kosslick also promised politics (again). I’m afraid, this won’t mean a balanced, unbiased, debate of contradictory viewpoints, but rather a one-directional discourse of which everybody knows the direction beforehand. Berlinale will certainly only promote the “right view”. And no, my dear millenials: that’s not debating. It would be nice to hear some competing views and arguments on whatever topic for a change, but people have perhaps turned too plain dumb for that. Also, never forget: Film is a propaganda medium in the first place, there has never been much space for grey in moving images. And still, isn’t it funny: Those who otherwise do their utmost to destroy every sense, believe the most firmly in teleological, natural, law and (human) rights, in “progress” toward some goal whose possibility of existence they fiercely deny. You feel your ethics, right? Who could be surprised about Berlinale jumping the next bandwagon, now promoting what I initially believed to be another publicity campaign of Alfa Romeo’s – there was a hashtag #Mito referencing the eponymous car model only a short while ago. Now it’s #metoo. Well, #notme. Unfortunately. But feel free to take your turn, most revered readeress. Only in France, there was that open letter signed by actress Catherine Deneuve who, I’m afraid, has turned persona non grata not only at Berlinale for denouncing a rampaging neo-Victorianism of all too familiar Americo-Puritan coinage. Oh, yes, maybe there’s still somebody out there without a clue what #metoo is about (happy you!): Sexual harassment for the ones, classic male courting behaviour for the others. It perfectly fits the common dichotomy: Male is evil, female is angelic; she-man rules (equal, but superior). Rest assured: As a Berlinale VIP, you will still be chauffeured in Audis. But should, over the course of the festival, you feel not treated like a man, or an asexual being, a digital entity – that, after all, is the latest vision of human- and: “hu-woman”-ity, - should you notice somebody (a man! a lesbian, or transgender, person would complicate things considerably) appreciate your bodily statue, or even indulge in indecent thoughts, you are encouraged to report him to Berlinale’s very own office of the moral police. Because #youtoo have the right to feel offended, and important. Yes, it is a stereotype, but I swear to all you hold holy: Sipping a coffee after said press conference, with several free samples from advertising lemonade and juice manufacturers stowed away safely in my coat pockets, I overheard the archetypical androgynous homosexual complain to her colleagues: “it never happened to me,” (you don’t say?) “but a friend....”. I bet you, she also trains in Martial Arts, if only to pay a debt to self-respect. Psychology can be cruel. A question from the audience pointed to a “a movement” voicing concerns whether it would be necessary (read: not in fact an outrageous example of patriarchal oppression) for Berlinale visiting females to wear robes and high heels (she didn’t ask if, and if then why, men are still be expected to hang the odd phallic symbol/noose around their neck). My advice would be: Don the burka. With that choice you can also manifest your social conscience, and solidarity with refugees and she-refugees. Or “refugated”? – In German at least, marketing has changed again, from noun to participle (said press conference was held in German). It’s tough to always keep up with the latest developments in newspeak, but: refugated and she-refugated, er: people. And she-people! No longer #metoo, but some film curator of Berlinale further cited “the important question, whether feminism is possible under capitalism?” (Let me mansplain this:) Well honey, it’s the same thing. Capitalism could no longer permit half of mankind – sorry again: man- and womankind – to stay outside, and (more or less by force, but what is not force in life?) live different lives, with different values. We only evermore acknowledge sense and meaning in quantifiable, capitalist, terms of “success”, leaving no room for competing, or only alternative, systems of meaning. “Emancipation” is but the valorisation of fallow humane capital, deal with it. You are what you hate the most, they say. Let’s be honest: That’s what lies at the heart (or: brain) of all this equality gibberish: Make money. Capitalism, the one unifying force in this world. You are one, black, white, male, female, queer, straight, whatever: One demographic, one target group, with one career, and two household incomes. That’s where the irony lies in its endorsement by the left: “That way of life is wrong, but it’s even worse, if only half of humanity adheres to it”. But maybe I’m mixing up anti-capitalism and anti-materialism again. No, I don’t condone (sexual) violence. I mourn a loss. There was a time, a “crime of passion” fell under extenuating circumstances, today it’s the opposite. It’s got something to do with our image of humanity. It’s all in your mind, mind. All, everything. If you choose to do tabula rasa, and ban every piece of chalk because it constitutes an evil constraint on the void, there’s still just a blackboard left, only more boring, with less stories, less ambiguity and certainly less magic. With more uniformity, more contract-regulated business relations instead. Math has replaced storytelling for good (maths, for mass). - Shoot, there it happened again: I got carried away. This wasn’t intended for a manifesto. So back to film it is. It needs to be said: On first sight, the film selection doesn’t rub it in. At least if you limit your interest to “competition” and that bizarre “competition-but-out-of-competition” category: No transvestites, no refugees this year - or perhaps (probably) yes, but not on the film poster, and hidden again (in the closet?). We will see about that. Albeit not in the jury, the big names will return too, for premieres and other PR duties. In turn, Berlinale goes to prison, not for a visit to My Friend Harvey W. (don’t tell me, this abject parody of a human is still running loose?), no, but several films will be screened in a Berlin penitentiary. Asking how many inmates are actually left to watch, would be going for the easy hit; there has been a rather elevated number of escapes these past months. (And suspecting, the looming prospect of watching festival films were a sufficient reason for escape, would be a bit harsh.) For my part, I’m looking forward to watching some movies.


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