My name is Linnea and I have the really fun job working as part of the film programming team at the Showroom cinema in Sheffield. Film Hub North supported me with some funding to go along to the Berlin Film Festival, one of the biggest events in the film industry calendar.
I’ve been back from the festival for just over a week now, but I feel like my mind is still bouncing around the streets of Berlin. By the end, I’d watched around 40 films and while I’m no stranger to watching film after film without giving it a second thought - it’s a part of my job, after all! - the pace of the Berlinale took a little bit of getting used to. I’d heard lots about the endless queuing and general sense of confusion that comes with the territory of such a big festival: does your type of badge guarantee you a ticket to such-and-such; should I stand in this long queue, or this slightly shorter queue; am I even in the right cinema…, so I was keen to get my head around the ins-and-outs as quickly as possible. Fortunately, I was with a few people who were seasoned pros, and the numerous people I got to know throughout the festival were all happy to help out. Plus, the pass I had enabled me to get into screenings on the market, so if I couldn’t get tickets to a particular film, I could check out the market schedule and always get to watch something. It was surprisingly easy to settle into a routine of bumbling around from screen to screen and cinema to cinema; you just have to remember to eat and keep your water bottle topped up!
Unlike Screening Days, where you know the films you’re watching are slated for release and can start considering your audience and how you’d include them in your programme, there’s much more uncertainty with the titles you’ll see at a festival, so it’s worth exploring a bit. You can stick to the titles with big premieres featured on the covers of the daily press but depending on your badge type these tickets can be hard to come by, and there were some real gems lurking elsewhere in the programme that I made an effort to check out. I’d put my focus on films directed by women and those telling under-represented stories, and there was a lot on offer. ‘Madeline’s Madeline’, was a dizzyingly brilliant film I’d read about from Sundance, which I only just managed to get into a packed screening of thanks to my treasured Market badge. It was also great to hear from filmmakers, who were at a lot of the screenings I went to. Machérie Ekwa Bahango, the director of ‘Maki’la’, spoke of her drive to make films that saw her learn the craft from online courses while she studied Law at university, and how she hoped to inspire more Congolese women to tell their stories. ‘Shakedown’ was an impressive self-funded documentary, put together from 400 hours of interviews and archive footage from an underground black lesbian strip club in LA, that breathed fresh life into how archives are presented to an audience, and the importance of when they should be shown.
Of course, it’s not just the films that are important - the festival provides so many opportunities to meet people and forge new relationships with venues, distributors, exhibitors and festivals from around the world. I went to the AGM of the European Children’s Film Association (ECFA) and got talking to people who are committed to supporting quality films for children and young people, delivering projects like an online platform that lets children who spend a lot of time in hospitals watch films from festivals, so they can feel included in the experience. I’m actually going to be heading over to one of the festivals in Sweden at the end of March to check out what they do - which I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of doing before meeting the people behind it at this event.
I could talk about every film I saw and every reception I went to, but I’d be here for a while! I had such an incredible - if a bit exhausting - time, that let me travel around a new city, watch a wealth of interesting films at fantastic cinemas, and meet lots of people, all brought together by a love of cinema and sharing stories with the world.