When German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder opens the 51st annual Berlin International Film Festival today, it will mark the beginning of the end of Moritz de Hadeln’s reign as festival director – not unhappy news for some doc-makers. Says Kai Kruger of the German Association of Documentary Filmmakers (A.G. DOK), ‘Only three years ago we had to sue our way into the Berlinale marketplace against Moritz de Hadeln, who just didn’t want to see us there.’ (See RealScreen March ’99, ‘A.G. DOK takes a stand at the Berlinale’)
De Hadeln, who has helmed the Berlinale for more than 20 years, was informed by the Berliner Festspiele board of directors last April that the 2001 festival would be his last as director. His contract was due to expire in April 2003, but the board opted for early termination.
According to Kruger, de Hadeln’s replacement, Dieter Kosslick, looks to be more doc-friendly. ‘Dieter Kosslick has given ample proof of his doc affinity ever since he went into film funding in Hamburg, and later in Dusseldorf, North Rhine Westphalia, where he built the state film funding agency into the top state funding agency of this country. With Dieter, the national and international documentary community has reason to hope that it has gained some kind of a stronghold in Berlin.’
A.G. DOK now has a firmly established place on the floor of the festival’s European Market. ‘Participation is important, as we have around 600 members now,’ notes A.G. DOK managing director Thomas Frickel. A.G. DOK will also host it’s annual general meeting during the first weekend of the Berlinale (approximately one third of the organization’s membership is based in Berlin).
International docs have traditionally found a home at the Berlinale in the Panorama and Forum sections alongside domestic films, and this year is no exception. Featured selections include a re-mastered version of Albert and David Maysles’ 1970 film Gimme Shelter, Ferenc Moldovanyi’s Children, Kosovo 2000, and Sundance Grand Jury prize winner Southern Comfort (Kate Davis).
For German doc-makers, the chance to share the spotlight wth some top-notch international productions is an added bonus. Says Kruger, ‘While keeping us up to date with world doc production, the Berlinale serves as an important takeoff platform for our own productions on both the national and international levels. It may not be the top marketing, pitching and meeting place all in one for docs, but the Berlinale Festival certainly has grown to become the main film industry event of Central Europe, offering an atmosphere all it’s own and attracting key industry and political people of this country and its neighbours.’