And now, ladies and gents, the red carpet has been rolled out yet again, and Berlin has been hobnobbing with the best of the best. I mean, if it’s good enough for Meryl Streep and Clive Owen. It’s surely good enough for you!
And why forsooth?
Because the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, otherwise known as the Berlinale, is in town!
Now for those of you interested in getting a piece of the action it’s quite easy.
WHAT IS THE BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL / BERLINALE?
Well, the Berlinale is simply, the world’s largest public film festival which provides an audience of interested film-goers, a city full of excitement, fascinating new films, and an opportunity to see, talk to, and take close-up pictures, of international stars in the movie world.
From the 11th of February to the 21st February, 2016, Berlin will be packed solid with members of the film industry.
My heart swells when I know that Berlin is competing with the likes of other film festivals in Cannes and Sundance.
Alright, not in the same category, but still. A festival to be proud of.
With more than four hundred (400) films, fifteen (15) categories sections and more than half a million cinema visits, the Berlinale is not only an independent film festival with a difference, but also a film festival that ordinary people can actually visit.
Yes, that means YOU!
A world international festival can sometimes be daunting, so I’m going to try and make it as easy as possible so that you too can participate, if you want to.
Read my beginners’ guide and find out how!
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO THE BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL / BERLINALE 2016!
BE PREPARED: The Berlinale always takes place in February so get yourself on the mailing list of the Berlinale so that you know when the official Berlinale programme is published.
USE THE INTERNET: There is a Berlinale homepage in both English and German. On the homepage is a Programme Section which also has a most valuable item called the programme planner. Use this item to search for films so that you have an idea of what you might want to see BEFORE the film festival begins.
GET THE PROGRAMME: If you’re not entirely sure what each film is about, you can either download the pdf format or if you’re in Berlin (and why wouldn’t you be!), you can pretty much find the programme brochures in every cinema forum in the city. Just help yourself!
USE TECHNOLOGY: Not only can you use the programme planner for your personal searches but you can also get into the 21st century and, for the first time ever, download the Apps (for Android and iOS) which links into the programme planner so that you can mark your favourite film or event at home, or on the move, and still remain up-to-date across multiple devices. The app also provides Berlinale information about festival venues, festival events and an overview of festival video broadcasts, the Opening and Closing Gala, as well as all the fun on the Red Carpet!
USE SOCIAL MEDIA: The Berlinale is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow my titbits and little quips here! Not only that, but around the Potsdamer Platz Arcade, WiFi is available for 2 hours per day per person, and there are other WIFI hotspots scattered around in various venues. For free!
MAKE A LIST: Once you have a rough idea of what you want to see, go ahead and make a list. Don’t forget to put the date, the name of the film in it’s original language and in English, the venue, and the time. Then make a second list with different films. Just in case. And a third one too!
CHECK THE FILM TIME: People get really excited when punters finally get the film of their dream and then discover soon after, that they can’t actually watch it ‘cos they’re still in a previous film! Just because the film states a starting time of 20:00 doesn’t actually mean that it’s going to start at 20:00! Films start late, discussions over lap. Deal with it! I find that putting films three (3) hours apart generally leaves more than enough room to manoeuvre. So, if for example, a film starts at 09:30, the next film I book is at 12:30 and not anything less! Most films tend to last between 80 and 100 minutes but you want to give yourself time for overlaps and also for getting from A to B. Berlin’s public transport system is fantastic but you still have to wade your way through the crowds to get out of the venue itself, and then go downstairs to your next train station, not to talk of wading yourself through more crowds at the next film venue!
LEAVE EARLY: Doors generally open 10 minutes before the film starts, so make sure you’re in the queue at least 20 minutes before the movie begins. If it’s a popular film, give yourself 30 minutes as there is no allocated seating. First come, first served. No seat is a dud in my opinion, but if you have preferred seating, then get there early.
This means that you’re going to have to gird your loins, get all your mates together and be smart and efficient. Each individual can only buy 2 tickets per film, except for Generation (children / youth films) which you can buy 4 tickets at a time, and Culinary Cinema film screenings at 7.30 pm, which you can buy as many as you like! You can of course, cross your fingers and buy on the day if tickets are available at the box office of the cinemas themselves. Ticket counters open daily from 10:00 to 20:00, with people forming a queue from about 08:00!
BUYING TICKETS ONLINE: If you don’t feel up to being with the hoi polloi, not a problem, use your fingers and go online instead! On the programme page is an online ticket icon. If you click on it, you’ll be directed to the online ticket shop but be warned, the other buyers are keen film-goers and pros. at this game. You’ll need firm fingers to keep clicking and refreshing in order to get those tickets. Or better still, allocate yourself an army of friends to help you.
You know how concert tickets sell out in 10 minutes? Yep! They use the same method. Friends! Mates! Neighbours! Everyone you know!
You’ll have to create a for-payment account in order to buy tickets online with an extra processing fee of €1.50 per ticket. You can use a major credit card and the tickets will be delivered to you either by Email, on your mobile phone, or you can simply pick the tickets up at the Online Ticket Pick-up Counter in the Potsdamer Platz Arcade shopping centre, by showing your printed confirmation and ID card.
TICKET PRICES: Berlinale tickets are generally between €4.00 – €14.00! A 50% discount is available for selected last-minute tickets and of course, if you’re a student, of school age, on welfare, etc, then a 50% discount on tickets are available too.
NO TICKET: If you still haven’t got the ticket you want, then go ahead and get any other film ticket instead! The whole point of a film festival are the intriguing films that are made available. Every film has passed muster, and outside of your own personal preference, none of the films are duds. Go on live a little! If you’re still unsure, then go to the venue of your choice and either hold out a sign that you’re looking for an extra ticket, or look for individuals who might want to sell theirs. Don’t deal with touts though. If the individual looks nice enough and has 1 or 2 tickets rather than 20, and is willing to sell it at market price, or even cheaper, then go for it!
WATCH YOUR THROAT: After watching quite a few films, the throat does tend to take a bit of a beating as the rooms can get a bit dry, so arm yourself with water and cough drops. Take a scarf too, in case the air-con is at full blast!
PRESS: If you’re a press person, you should have been through the accreditation process and have your badge and Berlinale gift bag! Nevertheless, even press people have to organise themselves as tickets are only made available one (1) day prior, and so I found myself checking into the Grand Hyatt Berlin on a daily basis.
At 08:00 in the morning. Eeek!
On the other hand, free bottles of water, free coffee (Ouch!) free WIFI, a press room, comfy seats and a quick means of getting all the press stuff and press tickets that you need, are provided.
Everyone has been so helpful and kind and not counting the first day where I really hadn’t a clue what I was doing, I’ve gotten each and every film ticket that I have wanted so far.
Thank you Berlinale Press Team!
BE OPEN TO A NEW EXPERIENCE: I love going to film festivals and one of the main reasons is that in many cases, the films that you get to see at such events will never be shown at regular cinemas, or ever at all! I mean, I hardly doubt that a Japanese film with a man running around with a cabbage on his head is going to be shown at a local cinema near you! Or how about a Turkish – Kurdish film about the lives of cleaning women in Istanbul.
I don’t think so!
In my case, I aim for weird Asian films (hence the cabbage head!) obscure East European films (such as Serbia) and Anglo-American films with controversial topics such as death and abandonment.
STAY FOR Q&A: The beauty of an international film festival or any film festival at all is that everyone tends to be there. You get stars such as Merly Streep, Clive Owen, Amal & George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Daniel Brühl, Heike Makatsch, Kirsten Dunst, Yuko Takeuchi, Sibel Kekili (Game of Thrones). Directors such as the Coen brothers, other directors, producers, actors. Everyone! Two years ago, Helena Bonham-Carter sat behind me and I hadn’t even noticed, until she got up to go to the front of the stage!
Actors, directors and producers tend to go out to the front and apart from staring at them really closely, you can ask them questions about their films or their thoughts, surrounding that film. And being that this is Berlin, everyone’s really chilled and not freaking out or going crazy.
Not inside the cinema theatre in any case.
If there’s a hottie on the red carpet like Channing Tatum or George Clooney, all that flies out of the window and people start screaming!
I mean, it sometimes goes insane.
The actors are always calm, professional and charming (especially George) but the audience just lose themselves with star-lust, over-whelmingness, or the fact that film premier tickets can sell out surprisingly quickly and not be found for love or money. If you didn’t know somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody, way up there, chances were, you wouldn’t get a look in!
The atmosphere once you get indoors, really is comforting and quite frankly, it’s nice.
And all for the price of a cinema ticket.
Less in some cases!
MAKE FRIENDS: Chat to the person next to you. Find your friends and partners and go for a well deserved late night drink!
TAKE ACTION: Now that you know what to do, go ahead and get yourself a film ticket and do it all over again the next day!
I'm a British girl from Manchester living in Berlin with my German husband and my half British – half German son.
My blog is a lifestyle expat travel blog and puts a focus on my promotion of culture, history, travels around the world, Europe, Brexit, the Royal Family, British-German life and being British in Berlin - I am The British Berliner!