Once a year, Berlin – one of the brightest and multicolored cities of Europe swarmed with busy people running to and fro like ants – turns into the Mecca of every film geek and film passionate. The 70th Anniversary of Berlin International Film Festival (or Berlinale) was a grandiose celebration of cinema, held from 20 February to 1 March 2020.

Berlinale is the kind of festival where you can buy a ticket to the random screening, but end up at the premiere event with filmmakers and celebrities. This is a perfect place for everyone: filmmaking beginners, journalists, film critics and audiences who just decided to become a part of the film celebration. 

Berlinale is not just about the groundbreaking films. Here you have a chance to see pictures that don’t reach the big screen but are still worth watching. While Cannes tries to bring big names and organizes premieres with luxury outfits on the red carpet, Berlinale becomes a platform for any type: from independent films and documentaries to masterpieces by famous filmmakers like Wim Wenders or Wes Anderson.

Berlinale is held in several cinema theatres across the city center. Most of the cinemas are located right next to the Berlinale center, and others at Alexanderplatz. 

Berlinale’s main center is located at Marlene Dietrich Platz. This is a long alley decorated with bright lights and red bear statues, the symbols of the festival. At the tickets and souvenir points, you can get printed programs, postcards, and wifi connections.

At the end of the alley, you can see the main palace where the red carpet events are held. Everyone has a chance to visit the building if you have bought the tickets for the film screening at this hall. 

Potsdamer Platz Arkaden

Berlinale is not just about the movies; it’s also about communication. Right next to the palace there is the AUDI center with free evening parties. And right across the street is the film museum with film market exhibitions, where you can get only with accreditation.

Nearly 400 films are chosen and divided between the main Berlinale sections every year: Competition, Special, Panorama, Shorts, Encounters, and Generation. Each section represents contrasting genres, themes, and approaches to film making. There is no other film festival that serves as a platform for beginners with 8-minutes pictures and professionals with expensive production.

I had a chance to visit the premiere of “Mare” directed by Andrea Štaka. A part of the Panorama section, “Mare” tells a difficult story about a married woman who falls in love with a younger man and decides to leave her family. Berlinale raises questions not only on controversial topics but also on the problems of ordinary people who feel lost and confused.

Berlinale Special strives to bring exclusive content to the audience. One of the most awaited films was Oleg Sentsov’s “Numbers”. Sentsov, a well-known Ukrainian filmmaker and social activist, presents an expressive direct criticism towards every authoritarian country where is a lack of human rights. “Numbers” reminds of “Dogville” where a film almost becomes like a theater play with minimal decorations and costumes. Sentsov directed “Numbers” during his jail term with the help of his colleague Akhtem Seitablaiev. 

Cubix Film Center

This year’s Competition section, The Silver Bear for the Best Screenplay, deservedly went to the “Favolacce” (“Bad Tales”). Italian tragicomedy by D’Innocenzo brothers about Italian families from different social classes but with the same problem: the kids are interested in school more than they should be. This is a tale about first love, school problems, unfulfilled dreams, and worried parents. 

Last year’s Cannes with the triumphant “Parasite” built a high level of interest for the Korean cinematography. “Domangchin yeoja” (“The Woman Who Ran”) by Hong Sang-soo got the Silver Bear for the Best Director. Hong Sang-soo’s film is not something loud. With its silence, pauses, and minimalism, the film speaks about problems in every woman’s life.

Alongside the Venice and Cannes film festivals, Berlinale is the only of the “Big Three” accessible to the general public. In Berlin, it doesn’t matter who you are. The city brings together the young and the old, the enthusiasts and the professionals together standing in line waiting for the same tickets, sitting in the same cinema hall and sharing the same experience. Luckily enough, by buying a ticket to a random film, you can find yourself at the very premiere with filmmakers and celebrities. It doesn’t matter who you are: all of you will end up sitting in the same cinema hall and enjoying the same film.

Photos by Irina Nikolaeva