The last time I went to Berlin film festival, I was 18 years old in my first year of University. I went with my friends on a trip with my University’s Drama Society and we travelled by bus. I know, I know. Manchester to Berlin must have some of the cheapest flights going. It was freezing on the bus and you had to laugh it was so dire. Berlin was even colder and I was sporting a coat that was way too skimpy for the elements. It was absolute bliss to hide from the elements in a cosy cinema screen.
Berlin Film Festival
Fast forward four years and I’m older, somewhat wiser, and itching to get back to Berlin to sample the most attended festival in the world. This time I would go it alone. My first venture in a country by myself and in a hostel by myself. There was another girl in the dorm who was also going to the festival. She had already got her tickets before she even got to Berlin and was way more prepared and went to see way more films than I did. I completely underestimated how booked up the festival would get, which is why I am only somewhat wiser.
Do as I say, not as I do…
I arrived on the opening day of the festival, Thursday 11th, and took that day to explore the city as I had planned in my own mind to go to the film festival Friday and Saturday and then spend my Sunday exploring before getting an evening plane back. On my visit to Berlin 4 years prior, we had been able to get tickets to see a film on the day and then successfully got tickets to 2 films for the next day at times of our choosing. It was completely different this time.
Back to this year, I went to the main Box Office situated in the Mall in Potsdamer Platz, the main location for the festival, with brochure in hand. As I queued up, I looked at the amount of tickets left for the duration of the festival flash up on screen. There were only the odd one or two that still had tickets left, and I could get none for that day. I settled with buying 4 tickets for the Saturday and left disappointed in myself that I hadn’t been more organised and booked at least a couple of films I really wanted to see online. But I was content and relieved, because I had done so much sightseeing and even got to see my old friend Stephanie from our time as camp counsellors at Camp Ballibay, 4 films in one day would definitely do.
The first film (and my favourite) was Turkish film Rauf (2016) which played in a beautiful packed out cinema and featured a Q&A with the filmmakers and actors. Including, the sweet and funny little boy who played the titular character. The host translating his questions from German to English, then the translator translating into Turkish/Kurdish for the cast and crew made it really feel like an International festival. It was heartwarming to hear so many accents flying around and feel like you’re a part of something bigger than simply getting on a plane to watch a film in a different country. The experience is so much more. It didn’t matter in the slightest that I was alone, because I felt the opposite.
Parting Glances (1986) + Programme 3
The next film was a previously released film, but still one you’d have a hard time tracking down. LGBT film Parting Glances (1986), which was in horrible condition, was carefully restored for the festival. and is even more of a treat because it was Steve Buscemi’s first onscreen role.
Thirdly, I saw a showing ambiguously named ‘Programme 3’ at one of the Art Schools in Berlin. I was starting to lag a bit by this point, but the film was about a Ventriloquist and Magician in the Lebanon somewhere, and something to do with statues… I’m really not sure what it was about. I saw it because the time worked in with the other films but it was hard not to fall asleep.
The Yard (2015)
Last but not least at 9:30pm (I started at 10am so I’d pretty much been watching films for over 12 hours. Kind of.) I saw Swedish film The Yard (2015) which I really wish I’d watched more of, but honestly, I couldn’t keep awake. I remember it being about a guy who, for whatever reason, wrote a book review of a book that didn’t exist. He lost his job and ended up working at a huge site where they import new cars, then some dodgy dealings go down. Yeah, I’ve made it sound so exciting, right?
If I get the opportunity to see The Yard again though, I absolutely will, because I’ve got a bit of a mini Swedish obsession going on at the moment in that I’m reading The Girl In The Spider’s Web and The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared. They’re both set in Sweden and I find every film I watch from Sweden quietly but riotously funny. If that makes sense. Probs not.
Just go to Berlin Film Festival
And there you have it, my time at the Berlin Film Festival! Any words of wisdom from me to you? For goodness sake plan your itinerary. It’s a film festival, you can’t just ‘go with the flow’. Cinemas are not capable of self-expanding to fit in any audience size, nor will they move their screening times to suit your schedule. Plan. In. Advance. Not all of it, but just enough to know that you will actually see some films as I very nearly didn’t.
Have any of you been to any film festivals outside of your own country? Or been to Berlin Film Festival?