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“Science fiction has become real”

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Dieter Kosslick • Director, Berlin Film Festival

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- We spoke to Berlin International Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick about the political and science-fiction focuses at this year’s edition of the gathering

Dieter Kosslick  • Director, Berlin Film Festival

Persecution, exploitation of the planet and life in the future are issues of interest for various filmmakers across the world. At the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, a number of films deal with social reality in the past, present and future. This year’s Berlinale will be a political festival, as festival director Dieter Kosslick points out.

Cineuropa: The Berlinale will open with the feature debut Django [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
Q&A: Etienne Comar
film profile
]
by Etienne Comar. To what extent does an opening film set the mood for the festival?

Dieter Kosslick: As a musician, Django Reinhardt is famous for his particular way of playing guitar because he created Gypsy jazz. The opening film shows the life and international career of this musician between 1940 and 1944, when the Nazis occupied Paris. As Sinti, Django Reinhardt and his family were persecuted and victimised. With Django we present an impressive portrait of an artist that reminds us of the power of personal resistance and the necessary freedom of art.

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How political are the films in this year’s festival programme?
The Berlinale already looks set to become a political festival because the new incumbent in Washington is increasingly serving us up scandalous subjects. If the political agenda there is against gays and lesbians, we are standing up against this with a film programme about homosexuals and the Teddy Award. And that is only one topic that makes this affair more political than in previous years: the second topic is about the exploitation of the world and how colonialism still shapes the social reality in many countries nowadays. A good example is the film Viceroy’s House [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Gurinder Chadha, about the so-called independence of India 70 years ago that led to 12 million refugees and more than one million deaths.

Various films take a look back through history, either directly or indirectly, in order to track down the background for today’s world. That is the case in films from Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. But at the Berlinale, we also have many amusing films such as Joseph Hader’s wonderful tragic comedy Wild Mouse [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Josef Hader
film profile
]
from Austria, the great film Spoor [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Agnieszka Holland
interview: Zofia Wichlacz
film profile
]
by Agnieszka Holland, which is an eco-thriller and a plea for a more human discourse with nature, as well as the social comedy The Party [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
Q&A: Sally Potter
film profile
]
by Sally Potter, which is set in modern-day England. Altogether, it is a very life-affirming programme.

This year’s Retrospective is dedicated to science fiction. Did the filmmakers’ visions come true?
Some directors came very close to actual technological feasibility. If we take a look at the exploitation of the world and global warming, the science-fiction film scenarios are already reality. With their viewpoint on totalitarian systems, for example, science-fiction films have been very prophetic. Stories about the surveillance state, as our jury chair Paul Verhoeven depicts in Starship Troopers, are becoming real all across the world.

Orson Welles’ fictional report about an alien invasion spreading across the country, which fooled many people in the 1930s, is similar to the atrocities in Aleppo nowadays. The world and the reproduction of the world – the world of the future and the world of the past – are joining up with one another. Now the age of the post-factual and fake news is beginning. Nobody believes anybody or anything anymore, because everything is manipulated via the internet. In that respect, the Retrospective has caught up because science fiction has become real.

Is there a motto for this year’s Berlinale?
Berlinale Talents has chosen the motto “Courage”, which is also the byword for the entire Berlinale. We all need to have the courage to resist these backwards politics, which aren’t only on the march in Germany, but all across the world – right up to high society. People have to wake up and stop staring at their Twitter and Facebook accounts  – otherwise they will miss important decisions such as Brexit.

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