Carlo Chatrian • Artistic director, Berlinale
“Films become political not just through their content, but also through the way they present challenging content with a certain form”
- The Berlinale’s outgoing artistic director discusses the evolution of the programming, balancing vision and reality, and the festival's commitment to diversity
Cineuropa met up with the Berlinale’s artistic director, Carlo Chatrian, for whom the 74th edition of the festival (15-25 February) will be the last in this role (see the news). Having curated a rich and versatile line-up (see the news), he discussed the evolution of the programming, balancing vision and reality, and the festival's commitment to diversity.
Cineuropa: Last year, you called the 2023 Berlinale a “new beginning” and your “first real edition” post-pandemic [see the interview]. Does the 2024 selection fully embody the Berlinale programming vision you initially had?
Carlo Chatrian: Well, there is always a gap between your vision and the reality, and I think this is a very healthy disparity. For one thing, reality is never the way you imagined it, and on the other hand, this gap pushes you to strive for something better every year. So, I don't start a selection process with any specific vision in mind; instead, I begin with certain ideas or goals that emerge from the previous edition. Each selection is essentially a process of readjusting. Reflecting on last year, our line-up was strong in the competition section but probably lacked a bit of diversity from around the world. This year, we've achieved that in a very strong way. I'm proud to say we have three films from the African continent in the competition. We've also got films coming from places like the Dominican Republic or Nepal, so we're truly bringing the world into our main line-up.
Reflecting on the streamlining of the festival's structure, how has it influenced the composition of the line-up? The major casualty appears to be episodic storytelling.
Last summer, we decided to discontinue the Perspektive Deutsches Kino and Berlinale Series sections. However, we've integrated numerous German first and second feature-length films into our programme – in total 11 – which are competing for an existing special award. For series, our approach has shifted towards special events, rather than a dedicated section. For example, the mini-series Dostoevskij [+see also:
interview: Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo
series profile] by Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo will be shown in its entirety. Zeit Verbrechen is part of the Panorama section [see the news], based on a popular German podcast and true events, featuring four standalone episodes. The only traditional series we're presenting is Netflix's Supersex. Although our series offerings have reduced, we have a wider variety of episodic content.
In curating the festival's line-up, how do you balance Hollywood productions, emerging voices, audience favourites and unconventional cinema? And how does genre cinema fit into this mix?
Striking a balance is our biggest challenge. We strive to represent cinema in all its forms, aiming for inclusivity and adapting to film availability annually. Our festival showcases genre films in various sections, including the main competition, Encounters and Panorama. Examples include surreal comedies like Sasquatch Sunset by David and Nathan Zellner, Gakuryu Ishii's The Box Man, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s thriller Chime. Additionally, we feature “elevated genre” films, like the Austrian entry The Devil's Bath by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. I love how the genre fare at our festival often exceeds expectations.
With eight out of 20 main competition films being German-produced or co-produced, does this indicate a continued strong presence of the German film industry, similar to last year's selection?
I'm glad you noticed that because, at a certain point in my selection process, I was a bit concerned that I didn't have as strong a selection of German films as I did last year. However, we have two exceptionally talented German filmmakers: Andreas Dresen with his emotionally moving From Hilde, With Love [+see also:
interview: Andreas Dresen
film profile] in the main competition, and Matthias Glasner's intricate Dying. Additionally, Architecton [+see also:
interview: Victor Kossakovsky
film profile] by Viktor Kossakovsky is fully German-produced, and there are several co-productions like Claire Burger's Foreign Tongue [+see also:
film profile], featuring German actress Nina Hoss and having been partially shot in Leipzig. I am always conscious of the Berlinale being a platform and vehicle for the German film industry.
You've described the Encounters section as a discovery platform. How has it evolved in the 2024 edition, and what unique forms, styles or genres can audiences expect?
One thing I realised afterwards is that this year, instead of a focus on first features, we have a significant presence of sophomore films. I'm excited to see filmmakers I've met at Locarno, Berlin or other festivals return with their second films, which are equally as thrilling as their first, if not more so. Our selection includes diverse narratives, from fiction with recognised stars, like the Indian movie, to those featuring non-professional actors. The documentaries range from straightforward to personal ones like Ruth Beckermann's latest work, Favoriten. We also feature a surreal documentary, Travis Wilkerson's Through the Graves the Wind Is Blowing, a politically charged film about the rise of hate speech in Europe, shot in Split, Croatia.
Your curation is known for featuring iconoclastic and asymmetric works. Could you point out any examples from the 2024 line-up that epitomise this approach?
It's always a difficult task to highlight specific films, and I'd rather not mention those in the main competition. But speaking of films out of competition, certainly, there are some notable mentions. I'm happy that we have filmmakers who are returning to the festival with their body of work. In Berlinale Special, we have Nicolas Philibert with Averroès & Rosa Parks [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Philibert
film profile], a companion piece to his Golden Bear winner On the Adamant [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Philibert
film profile], Abel Ferrara is here with Turn in the Wound, and Amos Gitai is back with Shikun [+see also:
film profile], a very challenging film, especially in today's context.
The Berlinale is known as the most political among the leading film festivals. How does it balance artistic merit with political expression?
Films become political not just through their content, but also through the way they present challenging content with a certain form. Shikun is political, but not solely because it's made by an Israeli filmmaker with a Palestinian actor. It's political because it uses aspects of Eugène Ionesco's Rhinoceros in a political way. It's a potent metaphor, addressing not just Israeli society, but also every society's perception of “the other”. The longest film at the festival, exergue – on documenta 14, which documents the 14-hour-long journey of building a cultural event like Documenta, is also political, as it speaks to the position and challenges that such events face in contemporary society.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.