Marcie, two years ago Berlinale Talents invited an equal number of female and male participants for the first time. In the #MeToo era, have you noticed a spike in women’s concerns in the submitted films?
First off, we’re very pleased to announce that we once again have gender parity among our selected participants – for the third year running. The #MeToo movement as such isn’t directly reflected in this year’s films, which makes sense since it’s a very personal issue. What we did see were many work samples treating domestic violence against women and children or examining the broader effects of violence. Looking at this year’s applications, there’s a clear concern with women’s position in the film industry, their roles and rights, working conditions and female-driven stories.
Dana, as a critic you are exposed to a lot of films at festivals all over the world. Were there any recurring themes or common characteristics that struck you in this year’s submissions?
Every new generation sets out to rediscover the world. The world is there. It has been examined and observed before, and yet it may appear unseen and untrodden. The filmmakers either chose to hold up a magnifying glass to see the personal: love, family, identity. There were quite a few films about gender fluidity and nomadic identities. Other films zoomed out and looked at global phenomena like war. I was hoping to see more reflections on fakeness, climate change and alternative communities, because these vital issues need the ingenuity and imagination of a new generation to find the right visual and narrative language to express them.
Jan, this coming edition’s theme is „Mistakes.“ As a director, can you share a memorable mistake you’ve made in your work?
That’s a tough question. Of course, there are mistakes that you can turn into anecdotes afterwards. Like a short I made in film school, where I spent seven hours in one day of shooting perfecting an establishing traveling shot on a dolly, while the actors were waiting on the sidelines going crazy… But the truth is, as a director you need to make a hundred decisions a day, often compromises, and you can never be sure whether it’s the right one: stick to the plan or let go, improvise? Do it one more time to get it just right, or try something new, different, crazy instead? Most of the time you can’t have it both ways.
What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers in tackling professional blunders?
Prepare as well as you can. But when you’re on set, you need to trust your intuition – even if you can never be 100% sure. Forgive yourself and keep going. With solid preparation, you can also give more space to your creative team. Sometimes it wasn’t until the editing room that I discovered the ideas and visions the others had brought to the film.
Dana, you’ve been a Talent Press mentor for many years. What do you think needs to be done to bring more diversity to film criticism?
First, we need to examine the dominant discourse. You cannot transgress it without understanding its power structures and the hierarchies implicit in a certain type of criticism that is focused on opinion and judgment. Next, it’s important to consciously create more spaces – actual publications, but also free havens and playgrounds – to experiment and invent new forms of criticism and critical language. For me, Talent Press has always been such a place, because it’s open-minded, inclusive and scrutinises the status quo. The Talents and mentors each contribute their own voice, and every film at the festival challenges them to examine, train, express and experience that voice.
Agustina, no doubt you’ve kept an eye out for the Latin American submissions. Considering the recent political turmoil in the region, did you detect an increased concern with current events?
Every region has its own pressing issues, of course. In the case of Latin America, this year you could see that the rise of the far right, violence against women and the growth of feminism as a new political force were prominent themes. Although the region has a large film industry, we’re still facing the same financing problems – and this year the applicants were even more concerned because these new governments keep reducing cultural funding, so it will become harder and harder to produce films in the region.
Finally, you recently decamped from Buenos Aires to Berlin for the selection process. Can you share some of your favourite places for other newcomers who might come for the festival?
Berlin is a big city full of cultural sights. It depends on your interests, but I’d recommend renting a bike to explore the historical centre including the Museum Island. Kreuzberg and Neukölln are two neighbourhoods packed with great places to eat and have a drink as well as super cool old arthouse cinemas. Sundays it’s worth checking out at least one of the flea markets around town.
Interview: Marion Schnelle
Dana Linssen is a Dutch film critic, philosopher and writer. She is editor-in-chief of de Filmkrant magazine; long-term film critic for NRC Handelsblad; founder of The Slow Criticism Project, a counterbalance to the commodification of film criticism; and curator of the Critics’ Choice at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. She is also a recipient of the Louis Hartlooper Award for Film Journalism and of the Silver Rosebud Award for her work as a film critic at large and at de Filmkrant.
Producer Marcie K. Jost is the co-founder of Worklights Media Production, which specialises in arthouse documentaries, experimental films and new media. She is also a board member of the Werkleitz media art centre in Halle. She has worked for the Werkleitz Biennale, is involved in the European Media Art Platform (EMAP) and co-founded the regional film school PMMC. She is active as a curator, programmer, executive producer and jury member. At Berlinale Talents, she is a long-standing member of the selection committee and coordinates the Sound Studio.
Jan Krüger is a film director based in Berlin. He studied at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and at the Binger Filmlab in Amsterdam. His short film The Whiz Kids premiered in Venice and won the Silver Lion in 2001, his debut En Route was awarded the Tiger Award in Rotterdam in 2004. Since then he has written and directed three features that screened at Berlinale Panorama and Forum. He teaches film and recently published a book about rehearsing with actors titled Proben für Film.
Agustina Arbetman holds a degree in cinema and theatre has been the programme coordinator of Talents Buenos Aires at Universidad del Cine since 2010. She has written and directed several short films as well as theatre plays and has worked as an assistant director and production designer on a number of internationally award-winning shorts and features. She currently coordinates the FOVES film festival for Argentinian high school students and is the programmer for the FAB film festival in Patagonia.