Previously: #5 Sheffield Doc/Fest
Our take: Like Sundance (#1) and Toronto (tied for #2), Berlin is one of the few festivals that automatically endows a film with a certain amount of caché and it has been in the doc game for decades. A screening here grabs the attention of European buyers in a way that few other can and can translate to juice for a possible US deal. Notoriously well-run (the "trains run on time" mantra is heard often).
The downside: Like Toronto, it's huge, and it lacks the singular focus that spotlights documentaries above narratives. It's often difficult to know what docs are screening in Berlin, even months after the festival. Also feels like the festival needs a more specific curatorial voice as it relates to nonfiction.
Important recent premieres: RACHEL, SWEETGRASS, KASHMIR: JOURNEY TO FREEDOM
Selection of US films screened at 2009 Fest: EVERY LITTLE STEP, FOOD, INC., IT MIGHT GET LOUD, THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD, WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE
Our coverage of Berlin here.
Filmmaker: "exciting to be part of even though there's no Thom Powers to make it truly a doc standout"
Filmmaker: "While high profile, only the competition sections provide lift to films."
Filmmaker: "Peculiar. It is a market. and the audiences are fantastic. And it's Berlin! But the choices are extremely odd. Of course, i could think that because my films are always rejected."
Filmmaker: "Paid for all expenses. Great for foreign sales, getting new festivals, foreign press."
Filmmaker: "Fairly receptive audiences, but doc selections are sometimes puzzling. A very prestigious fest to play for sure, but not one I think of as particularly strong for docs."
Filmmaker: "A big prestigious festival with a less-orthodox line-up. Although the programmers are quite nice, the festival is so large that it is easy to get lost in it – especially for first time filmmakers. Also, winter in Berlin is less than an ideal climate."
Industry: "Of the five majors, it has the longest standing commitment to nonfiction, programming a lot since its inception. It has a specialty market services for documentary that doesn’t exist elsewhere. They show roughly the same number of docs as Sundance and TIFF (about 40 a year) in the Forum and Panorama. Forum is aesthetically severe and politically challenging work. All the doc buyers are there."
Industry: "The reason why Berlin is so important is because if you want your film to open theatrically in the US, then its important. It’s kind of like Toronto, there’s just too many other films that are screening at the same time. But if you want to get the attention of distributors, it’s important."
Industry: "Been twice but have
yet to figure this one out – maybe I always went on the periphery but for some
reason never felt its center or a feeling of community."
Industry: "Still great, but much less useful for industry now in comparison to some others."
Industry: "while the programming has seen better days, still an essential stop for both the line-up and the EFM - first looks at a number of films that will be on the circuit for the year following. market badge is pretty expensive, but accreditation in general remains surprisingly cheap. the staff and organization is very rule based. That can be frustrating for some, but once you understand it, everything works if you follow their rules. programming has been disappointing generally in recent years. different programming strands really don't seem to communicate much, and the result is that information on the overall festival seems to be disseminated piecemeal, with multiple program books, catalogues, etc."
Industry: "Great uncle of the festivals - great way to start the fest year."
Industry: "I haven’t been, but ALL filmmakers tell me that they had the best technical projections of their films there."
Industry: "GREAT FOR BIGGER DOCS LIKE ROLLING STONES ETC. BUT A DOC WITHOUT A BIG SELLING POINT OR BUILT IN PROFILE WILL LIKELY GET LOST AT BERLIN"
Industry: "I didn't go to Berlin this year but have done in the past. It is the best-run , most fun and most interesting of the big fests but docs do get a bit lost there."