going to the uber prestigious berlinale (berlin international film festival) has been one of those unattainable dreams of mine since about 2007. i mean, why would i ever be in germany in february? welp, when it’s only seven hours away by bus and alex has the week off for spring break, it seemed like the stars were aligning to make it happen. booking our visit over a month in advance had several advantages: the bus tickets were super cheap, a great hostel near potsdamer platz (festival headquarters) was quite vacant, and i had something to occupy my always-planning mind during long, cold january.
berlinale is a generally pass-less festival, with passes being reserved only for press and filmmakers. for the hardcore festival goer, a pass-less festival is annoying because it’s usually more expensive due to being ticket-only policy, but it’s much more accessible to the berliners and tourists who just want to pop in to see a film or two. so, we couldn’t see films with reckless abandon like KVIFF or SIFF which means we had to choose what we wanted very carefully in advance.
i had heard a bit of horror stories about getting tickets for competition films, but i also read that about the mid-point, cinema-goers start burning out and tickets become much more available. i would say this is my experience, exactly. the weekend before we left for berlin, the 10% allotment of online tickets would sell out in seconds, but later we were able to get tickets to almost all of the films we wanted. i think the grand budapest hotel opening night publicity hysteria blew by fairly quickly and then everyone was free to relax and see some films. (below, standing in line for the first film)
when we actually arrived in the city, our first box office experience was very positive. plenty of tickets were available, the employees were friendly and patient, and we nabbed tix for several competition films right off the bat. besides the lack of signage in the cinemas (groan), the festival was very similar to seattle in terms of its execution. and although the competition films in the running for prizes like the golden bear were hyped, it seemed like the festival staff were much more excited to present the smaller foreign films in the panorama category. it was kind of nice– berlinale isn’t all about the big names… even though that’s certainly what sells.
i was really hoping to not succumb to extreme sleep deprivation this time around, but damn it, it just can’t be stopped. i suppose i should’ve forseen that buying tickets to a slow, quiet japanese film that begins at 10:45pm at the end of a loooong day with a long Q&A session afterwards and then a short turnaround with a 9:30am film the next morning wasn’t the wisest of decisions but i really only fell asleep during one film. (huzzah!) i would like to thank club maté and delicious coffee for getting me through. i would also like to thank SLOW FOOD BERLIN food trucks for your ever-delicious ramen between screenings.
this time around since we were only purchasing seven tickets each, we mutually agreed on films to see and a few of them were big winners in my book. here are three of my favorites…. look out for ‘em this year!
1. IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE Kraftidioten (2014, norway)
a revenge flick set in the icy north with plenty of unexpected really dark humor. i had no idea a film with so much murder and blood could be so hilarious– certainly attributed to the witty writing and great character acting. stellan skarsgard shines, and bruno ganz plays a smaller role. if you have the opportunity, do not miss this one. it’s the best film i’ve seen in a long time and a crying shame it didn’t win the golden bear.
2. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014, new zealand)
i’ve been a fan of director taika waititi (right) since i saw ‘boy’ in 2011, but this time her turns far away from the serious to a mockumentary (christopher guest style) about vampire bros sharing a flat in wellington. don’t let the “vampire” part turn you off– this has nothing to do with twilight. also featuring jermaine clement (center) and rhys darby from flight of the conchords, it’s an almost flawless comedy with the level of quality i’ve come to expect from these kiwi jokesters.
3. INBETWEEN WORLDS Zwischen Welten (2014, germany)
the latest effort from german director feo aladag (whose film when we leave i saw at SIFF 2010), taking place in afghanistan and focusing on the relationship between a german captain and an afghani interpreter. besides the glimpse of afghani life it provides, the film explores hard and perhaps unanswerable ethical questions about war, loyalty, and the price of a life.
basically, berlinale was a raging, roaring success. i feel so grateful for being able to attend this year! now, i have less than two weeks to finish watching the oscar nominated films before march 2nd, so i better get moseying! what was your favorite oscar nom film you saw?