Each February, Berlin is taken over by the glitz and glamour of the red carpet with its Berlinale, one of the world’s largest film festivals. This year’s 64th edition, held February 6 to 16, will be no different, with an exciting program of world premieres and thought-provoking international films. But what makes the Berlin festival truly special is its openness; as one of the largest public film festivals, the Berlinale sells more than 300,000 tickets to the public each year. This preview will get you primed to book your tickets now that the complete program is available.
A Berlinale background
The Berlinale was established in 1951, just six years after the end of World War II, in hopes to help restore some of its former cultural vibrancy. Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rebecca opened that first festival to much success, and recent films such as True Grit, Farewell, My Queen, and The Grandmaster have gone on to open it as well. Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, will open the 2014 Berlinale.
The 10-day Berlinale includes roughly 400 film screenings, many of which are international or European premieres. The program covers a wide range of cinematic styles, including established international movies, art-house and independent films, German features and documentaries, and a selection of films for teenagers and children. Major highlights of the festival include a prestigious Golden Bear awards program, post-screening Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, and the Culinary Cinema, a multi-evening event that pairs food-centric films with dinners hosted by top chefs such as Tim Raue and Michael Kempf.
The Berlinale takes place in 20 participating venues across the city, but the center of the action is at the Stage Theater am Potsdamer Platz. Other key venues include the world’s largest theater stage, at Friedrichstadt-Palast, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and West Berlin’s recently re-opened Zoo Palast.
What to see at the 2014 Berlinale
Berlin’s red carpet brings stars from around the world to promote their films and partake in the many discussions and events. In the past, everyone from Matt Damon and Hugh Jackman to Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep have appeared at the festival. Léa Seydoux, Ethan Hawke and Forest Whitaker are just a few of the actors who have announced they plan to attend in 2014.
The festival’s Golden Bear competition is one of the major events not to miss. Highlights include American director Richard Linklater’s latest film Boyhood, the French/German film La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), and George Clooney’s Monuments Men, which was filmed in the nearby Harz Mountains.
The Berlin film festival also brings films and directors from all over the world and in all genres, offering attendees the opportunity to see some rare and unusual movies. Some of the international films announced in this year’s lineup include Chinese director Yinan Diao’s Black Coal, Thin Ice, a thriller based on murders connected to the same woman, and the German film Inbetween Worlds, shot in northern Afghanistan.
Where to stay
If you want to be close to the action, book a hotel room directly at Potsdamer Platz. The modern design of Grand Hyatt Berlin — including comfortable rooms fit with luxurious amenities and contemporary art installations on each floor — is popular with the festival’s VIPs, so you might just bump into someone on their way out to the red carpet. A surefire bet is The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, an elegant, marble-filled hotel that sits right across from Potsdamer Platz. When you need a break from the festival action, order a handcrafted cocktail in hotel’s Curtain Club, a dimly lit, masculine bar with dark wood walls and comfortable leather chairs, or warm up with some Earl Grey in the light, airy Tea Lounge.
Photos Courtesy of Berlinale