Berlin International Film Festival

From New World Encyclopedia
Berlin International Film Festival
Goldener Bär trophy - DSC 1292.jpg
LocationBerlin, Germany
AwardsGolden Bear, Silver Bear
Artistic directorCarlo Chatrian
WebsiteBerlin International Film Festival (Berlinale)

The Berlin International Film Festival (German: Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin), usually called the Berlinale, is a film festival held annually in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1951 and originally run in June, since 1978 the festival has been held every February. It is considered one of the most important film festivals in the world, alongside the Venice Film Festival in Italy and the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The festival began at the beginning of the Cold War, in the city of Berlin divided after World War II. Over the years it developed from a “showcase of the free world” into a place of intercultural exchange for the whole world. Supporting innovation in all aspects of film making, the festival ranges from classic narrative forms to contemporary aesthetically and structurally daring works from contemporary filmmakers, including up and coming youngsters inspired to create works that reflect their unique cultural background. While there is an important element of competition, as film makers seek to win the coveted Golden Bear award, the festival functions primarily as a celebration of the art of film for the public as well as those involved in the business of film making. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and technical developments and thus contributes to the creation of films that entertain, inspire, and educate regarding current social issues.


Delphi Filmpalast

The festival has been held every February since 1978 and is now considered one of the "Big Three" festivals in Europe, alongside the Venice Film Festival in Italy and the Cannes Film Festival in France.[1] With tens of thousands if visitors attending each year, it is one of the largest film festivals in the world. About 400 films are shown in several sections across cinematic genres. Around twenty films compete for the festival's top awards, the Golden Bear and several Silver Bears.

First festival

During the peak of the Cold War in 1950, Oscar Martay, a film officer of the Information Service Branch of the American High Commissioner for Germany stationed in Berlin, proposed the idea of a film festival in Berlin.[2] The proposal was put through a committee, which included members of the Senate of Berlin and people from the German film industry, on 9 October 1950. Through his efforts and influence, the American military administration was persuaded to assist and to give loans for the first years of the Berlin International Film Festival, which commenced in June 1951. Film historian Dr. Alfred Bauer was the festival's first director, a position he would hold until 1976.[3]

Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca opened the first festival at the Titiana-Palast in Steglitz on June 6, 1951. The festival ran from June 6 to 17, with Waldbühne being another festival venue.[3]

The winners of the inaugural awards in 1951 were determined by a West German panel, and there were five winners of the Golden Bear, the prize for best film, divided by categories and genres. Disney's Cinderella, which won the Golden Bear for a Music Film, also won the audience award.[4]

Early years and awards

The FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films) prohibited the awarding of prizes by an expert jury, which is reserved for "A-status" accredited festivals, so between 1952 and 1955 the winners of the Golden Bear were determined by the audience members.[3] In 1956, FIAPF formally accredited the festival and since then the Golden Bear has been awarded by an international jury.[5]

During the Cold War, a selection of the films were also screened in East Berlin.[6]


The 20th Berlin International Film Festival in 1970 was cut short and awards not issued following controversy over the showing of Michael Verhoeven's anti-war film o.k..[7] The jury, headed by American film director George Stevens, decided after a 7–2 vote to remove the film from the competition, justifying their decision by citing a FIAPF guideline that said: "All film festivals should contribute to better understanding between nations." Stevens claimed that the film, which includes a gang rape of a Vietnamese woman by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, was anti-American.[8] One jury member, Dušan Makavejev, protested against this measure, standing up for the film and supporting Verhoeven and producer Rob Houwer.[9] Verhoeven defended his film by stating in these terms: "I have not made an anti-American film... The biggest part of the American people today is against the war in Vietnam".[10] Other directors taking part in the festival withdrew their films in protest, and the jury was accused of censorship and eventually disbanded, so no prizes were awarded and the competition was suspended.[11]

This scandal had such a major impact that the future of the festival was in doubt. Festival director Alfred Bauer resigned and it was clear that the festival needed to take a new direction if it was to continue.[9] Bauer returned and the following year, the festival was re-formed and a new International Forum for New Cinema was created.[12]

Wolf Donner took over the directorship in 1976, and he gave German films higher priority.[13] After his first Berlinale in June 1977, Donner successfully negotiated the shift of the festival from the June to February (February 22 – March 5, 1978), a change which has remained ever since.[8]

The 28th Festival, held in 1978, saw the jury award the Golden Bear to Spain for its contribution to the festival rather than a specific film.[7] The three Spanish films which were screened at the festival and won were short film Ascensor directed by Tomás Muñoz and feature films La palabras de Max by Emilio Martínez Lázaro and Las truchas by José Luis García Sánchez.[14] The 1978 festival also saw the start of the European Film Market.

Berlinale Palast (aka Theater am Potsdamer Platz, main venue since 2000


After only three years in the role, Donner was followed by Moritz de Hadeln, who held the position from 1980[15] until director Dieter Kosslick took over in 2001.[16]

Twenty-first century

A new Series section, devoted to longform television series, was introduced in 2015.[17]

In June 2018, it was announced that Mariette Rissenbeek would serve as the new executive director alongside artistic director Carlo Chatrian. They assumed their posts after Kosslick's final edition in 2019. Rissenbeek became the first woman to lead the Berlinale.[18][19]

A shortened 71st festival took place virtually in March 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An open air summer event took place as well in June.[20][21]

Festival program

Conference after a screening

The festival is currently composed of nine different sections:[22]

  • Competition: The centerpiece of the Berlinale, feature-length films yet to be released outside their country of origin compete for several prizes, including the top Golden Bear for the best film and a series of Silver Bears for acting, writing, and production.[23]
  • Berlinale Special: A diverse selection of films, events, and people, and Berlinale Series for television series.[17]
  • Encounters: Established in 2020 to foster "daring works" when Culinary Cinema was dropped.[24]
  • Berlinale Shorts: A separate section for short films since 2007; short films were honored with Golden and Silver Bears from 1955, with a separate jury for shorts established in 2003.[25]
  • Panorama: Extraordinary cinema: "explicitly queer, explicitly feminist, explicitly political ... always looking for what is new, daring, unconventional and wild in today’s cinema" cinema.[26]
  • Forum & Forum Expanded: Reflections on the medium of film; a selection of around 40 films, independently curated and organized by Institut für Film und Videokunst (Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art) as part of the Berlinale, since 1971.[27]
  • Generation: Comprising Generation Kplus and Generation 14plus, two competition programs screening international cinema exploring the worlds of children and teenagers; started in 1978 with a selection "Cinema for People Six and up"; then Kinderfilmfest ("Children’s Film Festival"); expanded to include the 14plus competition in 2004; renamed Generation in 2007, with the two sections.[28]
  • Perspektive Deutsches Kino: Perspectives on German Cinema, created in 2002 by incoming director Dieter Kosslick with Alfred Holighaus[29]
  • Retrospective, Berlinale Classics & Homage: Berlinale’s film history program established in 1977. Curated by the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen the Retrospective brings works from international film history back to the big screen. In Berlinale Classics, digitally restored film classics and rediscoveries celebrate their premieres. the Homage honors outstanding personalities from the international film scene, screening their most important works in a series of films. The presentation of the Honorary Golden Bear for a lifetime’s achievement at a gala screening in the presence of the honored guest is one of the highlights of the Berlinale.[30]


The Golden Bear (Goldener Bär) is the highest prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin International Film Festival. In its first year in 1951 there were five winners of the Golden Bear, divided by categories and genres, awarded by a German jury.[31]

From 1952 to 1955 the Golden and Silver Bears (Silberner Bär) were awarded by audience voting, as the FIAPF had determined after the first festival that only Cannes and Venice Film Festivals were allowed to appoint official juries.[32] In 1956, the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films formally accredited the festival, and since then, the Golden Bear and various Silver Bears have been awarded by an international jury.[5]

A Bronze Berlin Bear, determined by audience vote, was also awarded from 1952 to 1955.[33]

International jury prizes

A Golden Bear statue

Since 1956, the main prizes in the festival, which today include the Golden Bear and various Silver Bears, are those awarded by the international jury.[34]

The statuettes awarded as trophies are based on the Bär first created by sculptor Renée Sintenis (1888–1965) in 1932. The bear, based on the coat of arms of Berlin and depicting a bear standing on its hind legs with its arms raised, became popular in the 1930s, bringing wealth to Sintenis. Since the 3rd Festival in 1953, replicas of the bear have been produced by the Noack Foundry.[35][36]

Golden Bear

The Golden Bear (German: Goldener Bär) is the highest prize awarded to the producers of the best feature film.[34]

The statuette shows a bear standing on its hind legs and is based on the 1932 design by German sculptor Renée Sintenis of Berlin's heraldic mascot that later became the symbol of the festival. The original award was redesigned in 1960.[37]

The bear is 20 centimeters (7.9 in) high and is fixed onto a base where the winning name is engraved. The figurine consists of a bronze core, which is then plated with a layer of gold. The total weight of the award is 4 kilograms (8.8 lb).[38]

Silver Bear
The Silver Bear statue

The Silver Bear statuette is cast the same as the Golden Bear, but plated in silver instead of gold.[38] The categories of Silver Bear awards are:[34]

  • Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
  • Silver Bear Jury Prize
  • Silver Bear for Best Short Film
  • Silver Bear for Best Director
  • Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance
  • Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance
  • Silver Bear for Best Screenplay
  • Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution

Other Berlinale awards

The Honorary Golden Bear has been awarded for lifetime achievement since 1982, when it was awarded to James Stewart.[39] It is presented to someone with an exceptional artistic career, and is given to the guest of honor of the Homage section[40] which has been run since 1977 by the Berlinale and the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.[30]

Awards for short films are awarded by a separate international short film jury consisting of three filmmakers and artists. The short film award are:[41]

  • Golden Bear for Best Short Film (since 1956)
  • Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film)
  • Berlin Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards

There are also awards given by separate juries or via other routes at the Berlinale. These include:

  • The Berlinale Camera has been awarded since 1986, with the trophy modeled on a real camera, made with 128 parts, some movable. It is awarded to "personalities and institutions that have made a unique contribution to film," as a way for the festival to express its thanks to friends and supporters of the festival. Past winners include Isabella Rossellini, Michael Ballhaus, Claude Chabrol, Jodie Foster, Otto Sander, Karlheinz Böhm, Clint Eastwood, Gina Lollobrigida, Sydney Pollack, and Curt Siodmak.[36]
  • Crystal Bears (Gläserner Bär), Grand Prix, and special prizes are awarded in the Generation section (grouped separately into Generation Kplus and Generation 14plus)[42]

Independent awards

There are also many other prizes given by independent juries (not connected to the Berlinale) at the event. For example, the Shooting Stars Award for young European acting talent is independently awarded by European Film Promotion at Berlinale Palast.[43]

Many other awards are also given, including juries of the international film critics association “Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique” (FIPRESCI), the Ecumenical Jury which represents the international film organizations of the Protestant and Catholic Churches, INTERFILM and SIGNIS, the International Confederation of Art House Cinemas, "Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art et d’Essai" (C.I.C.A.E.), the independent Peace Film Prize, and many others.[44]


Cubix Kino at Alexanderplatz
Kino International

The Theater am Potsdamer Platz, a theatre for musicals which is known as the Berlinale Palast during the festival, is the venue for the premieres of Competition film and several Special Gala films, as well as the opening and awards ceremonies.[45]

The CinemaxX Potsdamer Platz, which has 19 screens, has been the main Berlinale screening cinema since 2000, two years after its opening in 1998.[46]

Other venues for the festival include or have included the following:[47]

  • The first festival was screened at the Titiana-Palast in Steglitz, as well as the open-air cinema at Waldbühne, in June 1951.[7][48] The Titiana Palast building, dating from 1926, still bears this name on a sign outside, but is now known as the Cineplex Titania. It was renovated in 2014, creating seven cinemas with over 1,200 seats, along with 7.1 Dolby Digital sound technology.[49]
  • The historic Delphi Filmpalast am Zoo (aka the Delphi; built on the site of an old dance hall, was opened in 1949 by Walter Jonigkeit. It is located near the Berlin Zoologischer Garten and has been used for the festival almost since its inception. Since 1981 it has been one of the main venues for the Forum program, maintaining its old style as a picture palace. Following renovation in 2014, it seats an audience of up to 768 people and is one of Germany’s biggest independent screens. [50]
  • The Zoo Palast was purpose-built for the festival in 1957 based on designs by cinema architect Gerhard Fritsche, and opened with the film Die Zürcher Verlobung, starring Liselotte Pulver, who also cut the ribbon in the opening ceremony.[51] It remained the home of the festival until 1999, and was the venue for films premiering in competition. It closed from 2011 until late 2013 for a complete interior reconstruction and renovation, opening in time for the 2014 festival with seven cinemas and offering a total of 1,650 seats, and space for 791 in the main auditorium.[52]
  • The exhibition space and screening hall of the Academy of Arts (Akademie der Künste) in the Tiergarten district was used as a venue before the Berlinale moved its main activities to Potsdamer Platz in 2000. It was briefly a venue for the for the Forum program from 2015, and once again took on duties as screening venue after the closure of the Sony Center at the end of 2019.[53]
  • In 2007, the CineStar CUBIX multiplex cinema (Cubix am Alexanderplatz, which opened in November 2000, started screening films for the festival on three of its screens, and from 2020, after the closure of the Sony Center, using all nine screens.[54]
  • Since 2009, Friedrichstadt-Palast has also been used. This venue not only has the largest theatre stage in the world, but the biggest cinema of the film festival, with 1,635 seats available for screenings. Films from the Competition and Berlinale Special Gala sections are shown at Friedrichstadt-Palast, and a digital 4K laser projector is supplied for the festival.[55]
  • The historic Kino International, built in the 1960s to the designs of GDR architect Josef Kaiser, is an example of GDR Modernism and has been one of the venues for the Berlinale since the mid-2010s accommodating an audience of 555 people (originally built for 600).[56]
  • The Kino Arsenal at the Institut für Film und Videokunst (Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art) (formerly known as Friends of the German Film Archive until 2008) in Potsdamer Strasse is the main venue of the Forum event. The original Arsenal, in Welserstraße in Berlin-Schöneberg, was where this section was born. In 1999, Arsenal moved with Friends of German Film Archive, German Film Museum and the German Film and Television Academy Berlin into the Filmhaus on Potsdamer Platz. There are two screens here, with seating for 235 and 75.[57]
  • The Haus der Kulturen der Welt, in the middle of Tiergarten Park, is the venue for the premieres of Generation, the youth section of the festival.[58]
  • The Zeiss Major Planetarium is a planetarium, which has two spaces available for film screenings, the planetarium hall with 307 seats, and a cinema hall with 160 seats. It was one of the last buildings built in the GDR, constructed in 1987.[59]

Related events


European Film Market

The European Film Market (EFM), a film trade fair held simultaneously to the Berlinale, is a major industry meeting for the international film circuit. The trade fair serves distributors, film buyers, producers, financiers and co-production agents and has grown into one of three largest movie markets in the world. It is the first film market of the year.[60]

EFM provides exhibition space for companies presenting their current line-up, organizing screenings of new films in venues around Potsdamer Platz. Taking place over eight days, the event is spread across several locations, including the Gropius Bau, Marriott Hotel, modern Berliner Freiheit, or the historic Zoo Palast.[60]

Berlinale Talents

Commencing in 2003, the Berlinale has partnered with the Berlinale Talents (previously Berlinale Talent Campus), which is a winter school for "up-and-coming filmmakers" that takes place at the same time as the festival. A week-long series of lectures and workshops, it features lectures and panel discussions with well-known professionals addressing issues in filmmaking. Workshops, excursions, personal tutoring, coaching, and training of participants from different fields of work are part of the program.[61]

Berlinale Co-Production Market

The Berlinale Co-Production Market is a five-day networking platform for producers and financiers, as well as broadcasting and funding representatives who are participating in international co-productions.[62]

World Cinema Fund

The World Cinema Fund (WCF) was established by Dieter Kosslick in 2004. It is associated with the Berlinale to provide financial support to feature film projects in countries in countries with weak film infrastructure thereby helping strengthen the regions’ position on the international film market.[63]

The WCF is a collaboration with the Federal Foundation for Culture, and awarded in cooperation with the Goethe Institute, the Foreign Ministry and German producers. It aims "to develop and support cinema in regions with a weak film infrastructure, while fostering cultural diversity in German cinemas."[64] It provides funding for production and distribution of feature films and feature-length documentaries, with a focus on countries in Latin America, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Caucasus, as well as Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka.


  1. Marijke de Valck, Brendan Kredell, and Skadi Loist (eds.), Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice (Routledge, 2016, ISBN 978-0415712477).
  2. Cindy H. Wong, Film Festivals: Culture, People, and Power on the Global Screen (Rutgers University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0813551210).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 1st Berlin International Film Festival June 6-17, 1951 Berlinale. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  4. Prizes & Honours 1951 Berlinale. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Juries 1952 Berlinale. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  6. Harold Myers, Berlin Film Fest Unreeling Variety, June 29, 1960. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Berlinale beginnings Variety, February 8, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Michelle Langford, Directory of World Cinema: Germany (Intellect Ltd, 2012, ISBN 978-1841504650).
  9. 9.0 9.1 20th Berlin International Film Festival, June 26 - July 7, 1970 Berlinale. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  10. War film dropped by Berlin Festival The New York Times, July 4, 1970. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  11. Berlinale looks back on 60 years of war, scandal and glamour Deutsche Welle, February 10, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  12. 21st Berlin International Film Festival June 26 - July 6, 1971 Berlinale. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  13. 27th Berlin International Film Festival June 24 - July 5, 1977 Berlinale. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  14. Prizes and Honors 1978 Berlinale. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  15. 30th Berlin International Film Festival February 18 - 29, 1980 Berlinale. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
  16. 51st Berlin International Film Festival February 7 - 18, 2001 Berlinale. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Berlinale Special & Berlinale Series Berlinale. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
  18. Leo Barraclough, Mariette Rissenbeek, Carlo Chatrian to Become Co-Chiefs of Berlin Film Festival Variety, June 22, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
  19. Matt Mueller, Berlin Film Festival's new co-chief Mariette Rissenbeek on her appointment and future plans Screen Daily, August 2, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
  20. Berlinale 2021 Will Be a Festival in Two Stages: Industry Online Offer in March / Public Event in June Berlinale, December 18, 2020. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
  21. Berlinale Goes Open Air Berlinale.
  22. Sections & Special Presentations Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  23. Competition Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  24. Encounters Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  25. Berlinale Shorts Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  26. Panorama Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  27. Forum & Forum Expanded Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  28. Generation Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  29. Perspektive Deutsches Kino Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Retrospective, Berlinale Classics & Homage Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  31. Prizes & Honours 1951 Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  32. Juries 1953 Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  33. Prizes & Honours 1952 Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 Prizes of the International Jury Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  35. Emmanuelle François, The woman behind the Bär Exberliner, March 2, 2018. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Berlinale Camera Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  37. James F. English, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0674030435).
  38. 38.0 38.1 In pictures Novinite, February 8, 2010. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  39. Prizes & Honours 1982 Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  40. The Honorary Golden Bear Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  41. Prizes of the International Short Film Jury Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  42. Awards and Juries in the Generation section Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  43. European Shooting Stars European Film Promotion, January 13, 2022.
  44. Further Prizes Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  45. Festival Map: Berlinale Palast Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  46. Festival Map: CinemaxX Potsdamer Platz Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  47. Festival Map Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  48. Waldbühne open-air stage Visit Berlin. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  49. Festival Map: Cineplex Titania Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  50. Festival Map: Delphi Filmpalast Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  51. Zoo Palast Kino Berlin Kinokompendium. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  52. Festival Map: Zoo Palast Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  53. Festival Map: Akademie der Künste (Hanseatenweg) Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2002.
  54. Festival Map: CUBIX Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  55. Festival Map: Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  56. Festival Map: Kino Internatioal Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  57. Festival Map: Kino Arsenal Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  58. Festival Map: Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  59. Festival Map: Zeiss Planetarium Berlinale. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  60. 60.0 60.1 The Profile of the European Film Market EFM. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  61. Berlinale Talents Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  62. Profile Berlinale Co-Production Market EFM. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  63. Florentina Bratfanof, Understanding the Berlinale - An insider's diary ASEF culture360, April 3, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
  64. World Cinema Fund Retrieved September 30, 2022.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • English, James F. The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value. Harvard University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0674030435
  • Langford, Michelle. Directory of World Cinema: Germany. Intellect Ltd, 2012. ISBN 978-1841504650
  • de Valck, Marijke, Brendan Kredell, and Skadi Loist (eds.). Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge, 2016. ISBN 978-0415712477
  • Wong, Cindy H. Film Festivals: Culture, People, and Power on the Global Screen. Rutgers University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0813551210

External links

All links retrieved September 28, 2023.


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