To this day, Berlin's rebellious attitude persists, drawing artists and rebels both with and without a cause and come every February, the world's cinematic artists and lovers alike descend on the German capital for the Berlin Film Festival – one of the major 5 international film festivals in the world.

The Berlinale is big!

Berlin’s city fathers have undertaken a long term programme to make the city Europe’s pre-eminent art & culture centre by accommodating artistic self-expression in typical laissez-faire style. Take, for instance, the city’s stance towards graffiti. Instead of fighting graffiti, the city decided to make it part and parcel of the city’s cultural landscape. It comes from the days of the Wall of course, when the Berlin Wall became a giant canvas of political protest slogans.

This willingness to look with fresh eyes at old problems has paid off. Today Berlin has become an avant-garde city of public murals and street paintings all of which alone make for a good reason to go there for a visit. But pictures come in different kinds and when it comes to moving pictures, Berlin has not let the grass grow under its feet.

In an age where almost every other city has one or more film festivals, few can compare to the reach of the Berlin Film Festival as one of the largest media markets in Europe and as a Film Festival that places enormous importance on developing and promoting new film talent at the global level. 2013 will see the 64th year of the annual event, which is marketed under the slogan of the Berlinale.

The Berlinale includes the European Film Market which runs concurrently to the Film Festival and draws in excess of 4,000 media representatives, making it one fo the top 3 media markets in Europe. Additionally, the Berlinale includes a Co-Production Market, a Talent Campus and a World Cinema Fund – all red-letter events built around the major attraction, i.e. the screening of more than 400 films of all lengths, from well over one hundred countries and covering any topic, to a public audience of more than 200,000 movie goers. …Bottom line: …The Berlinale is Big! (Oh, and it mostly in English).

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.

To help audiences get their heads around which movies to attend, the Berlinale Program is composed of major categories. The Competition category feature World Cinema entries for the Bear Awards. Most of the films making its premiere at the Berlinale have not been seen in their respective home countries and each year about twenty or so movies make its debut to at the festival to compete for the Berlin Film Festival’s trademark awards, the famous Golden Bear.

Silver Bear awards are given in several other categories, e.g. Best Actor and Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Artistic Achievement and so on, as selected by an international panel of jurors. There are also several other independent juries making several other awards, including the Crystal Bear Awards and the Teddy Awards (we’ll leave the bear off the end of that one!).

Something for Families

Going to the movies is something families usually love to do together, yet when it comes to film festivals, it is often a hit-and-miss. At the Berlinale, the Generation Program caters primarily to the youth and to children with a mix of short and full-length feature films, offering parents the opportunity to treat themselves and their children to much more than just the Tale of the Three Bears.

Something for Connoisseurs

If you’d rather skip the brouhaha and go in more for the Independent and Art House Cinema stuff, you’d definitely want to pay attention to the Panorama Program. Panorama is aimed at introducing film goers to controversial subjects or aesthetic styles and although certainly not a rule, often attracts movies in the LGBT genre.

If you aim for more avant-garde cinematography or experimental film-making, you’re likely to find much of interest under the Forum Program. Films in the Forum do not compete for awards, so the breaks are really off when it comes to ditching conventional ideas about film making. Forum movies are typically produced or directed by young talent with the aim of encouraging the next generation of film makers to explore the medium of film with confidence.

The Berlinale Shorts is as its name suggests, the Program for short films. As Germany’s premier film industry event, the Perspektive Deutsches Kino caters to German language films. Sprechen sie Deutsch? If so, go for it. German cinema has always had a reputation for being daring.

Something to gain

Is your interest in movies bigger than merely being a spectator? If so, you may wish to allow yourself some time to attend the Talent Campus. As part of the Berlinale, it aims to encourage young-and-upcoming film talent to share ideas. The Talent Campus is open to the public and fortunately, takes place in English. Experts are typically invited to lead a discussion on a selected topic and offer participants an opportunity to find insight into the process of film making and appreciation.

The short of it all

Attending the Berlinale is as easy as pie. Most of the action centres around the Potsdamer Platz. Keep a watchful eye on the main website. Tickets normally go on sale about three weeks or so before the event and you may be able to reserve your seats electronically, affording you the best opportunity to make your selections before you arrive.

Aside

Of course you don’t just want to spend all your time in a Kino. Berlin offers much more, so when you get the urge to partake in other things, be on the lookout for fringe events. In 2012, L’Oreal offered festival patrons a free opportunity to have their make-up done just like its done for the big screen.

But just in case that’s not enough, Berlin has more than 170 museums of all varieties to keep you busy, let alone one of the best Philharmonic Orchestras on the planet; at least two world famous opera companies – the Berlin State Opera and the National German Opera; notorious night clubbing and architectural wonders – to name but a few.

All things considered, you can visit Berlin any time and it will have something on offer for you, but why not plan ahead now to do some serious movie watching next winter.

Have you ever visited the Berlinale? What suggestions would you make to someone who has never attended it?

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