What’s It Like At The Berlin Film Festival?

A film festival is about more than just the films and the festival center. It is about the location, the journey, the experience. Here on Deadline we’ll be bringing you updates on what it’s like to be on the ground at the 72nd Berlin Film Festival.

What’s it like on the ground on the eve of the Berlin Film Festival? Quieter.

“Much quieter,” in the words of the receptionist at my hotel. A walk around the Berlinale Palast festival center this morning confirmed that assessment. The streets and hotels are sparse. As expected.

The in-person festival and online market officially get underway tomorrow two years after their last in-person edition. Ordinarily the main festival areas would be bustling by now but attendance will be significantly diminished as a result of the pandemic. Covid rates remain high in Germany and in Europe even if there is hope that spring will bring further easing of restrictions.

Due to the hygiene and security measures, there will be a reduction in seating capacity in cinemas to 50 percent. Accredited guests are asked to wear FFP2 masks. The festival has set up multiple Covid testing booths (and buses) at hotels and at the Palast (pictured below) and accredited guests need to be tested each day before entering festival venues even if vaccinated.

The bureaucracy is onerous. Enough to turn some people off. Arriving at Berlin’s new airport (which is further from the centre than Tegel) the checks were surprisingly lengthy, not what we’re used to in Europe, and more rigorous than entering Italy for the Venice Film Festival. The queues for non-nationals took 30 minutes to clear and passport and Covid control included a bunch of unusual questions (again, for European countries) like being asked to show how much money you were carrying and show proof of why you were visiting.

The popular restaurant and bar at my hotel is closed and breakfast this morning was much quieter than usual. There will be no official festival parties and a number of local restaurants are unofficially closing their doors early due to reduced footfall. One restaurant we called requires guests to take a Covid test at the door if they haven’t had a booster.

And yet, despite the pared back experience and additional bureaucracy, after two years of lockdown life, it’s also nice to be back on the road. It’s good to be back among the film community reporting from one of its key international events. Festivals needs that community (and vice-versa) through the good times and the bad.

While most American companies have understandably skipped the long journey given that that the EFM is virtual again, there will be a reduced number of international sales companies, producers and distributors taking meetings on the ground.

The festival will open tomorrow with the world premiere of François Ozon’s Peter von Kant, which is in Competition. The director and his film team – Denis Ménochet, who plays the main part, and members of the cast, Khalil Garbia and Stéfan Crépon – will introduce the film in the Berlinale Palast. The festival’s press release today doesn’t mention whether co-star Isabelle Adjani will be at the opening.

Hosting tomorrow night will be Minister of State for Culture and the Media Claudia Roth, Governing Mayor of Berlin Franziska Giffey, this year’s Jury President M. Night Shyamalan, as well as the festival heads Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian.

Other guests on the night are expected to include Asia Argento, Dario Argento, Emily Atef, Denis Côté, Martina Gedeck, Louis Hofmann, Janine Jackowski, Burhan Qurbani, Maria Schrader and Julia von Heinz.

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