Feb 9, 2011

Cinema Paradise in Berlin Part1.

Reading this week’s assignments reminds me of the blissful experience at chilly Berlin on November 2007 and I became to want to share it. It was when I was writing for Korean weekly movie magazine, and I was covering a small international short film festival, which started as a Squatting Movement in 60s under the title of “Interfilm”. Not to mention the film festival and its programming, I fall in love with the whole city of Berlin, the huge cinema with amazingly various layers. So I decided to little bit broad my story and started meeting several Berliners, whose title is either programmer or curator.

The cinema where Interfilm was held that year is located in the East Berlin sector. During the 1930s, when Berlin was the center of the European cultural scene, it was the venue of many famous silent films. Under the East Germany governing, it used to have the premier screening of most East German films and other USSR films. Around 1980s even before the Wall fell down, it re-started its fame as independent films, and during the 1990s, Babylon was newly born by the “Save the Babylon” movement and the following German public cinema movement. As of 2007, one third of its annual budget was from the City government of Berlin. With 3 screens with 450 seats in total, its annual visitors during 2006 were 100,000. It was screening 130 films per month in average. This somewhat surprising number was originated from its programming since it ran quite many interesting and rare film festivals such as Tunisian film festival, Baltic film festival, and Brazilian film festival. Most of the screenings, if it’s not a releasing of independent international film, were programmed by its professional curators and several guest curators, who are usually students and cinephiles. I was trying to have as many comments as possible from the audience and all seemed to be very loyal to the cinema itself, not necessarily to the program or the films. You can easily have an impression that such loyalty must be grounded upon the long history and reliable reputation of Babylon. I found the comment from the owner of Babylon very interesting, “A theater needs audience. A film whose audience is only two people is not my interest”. At first it sounded very commercial point of view but it was followed by additional comment, “any film deserves 30 people per one screening”. And he was doing his best to PR any film he screened in his cinema in many diverse routes.

Other Art House Cinemas
Along with New York, Paris and London, Berlin must be the ultimate paradise for moviegoers with huge appetites. Many Europeans were gathered in many different art house cinemas in Berlin, to look for the exact film which satisfies each one’s taste. From the very top level there are Babylon above and Kinemathek, which is residing in the same building with Filmmuseum in a very modern financial district in Berlin. They were relatively well funded by government so that they were able to run somewhat unique and high end programs upon their own loyal reputation. But the main beauty of this city as the huge cinema was on its diversity. There were other many art house cinemas with a couple of screens, showing non-Hollywood, international, independent films everyday. Most theaters were differentiated in its programming. Each theater had unique sort of major – animation, documentary, musical, classis, horror & fantasy, etc.

To be continued...
I was about to write about Bar Cinema and Pirate Cinema as well... but realized that this post is becoming surpringly long and boring...too. So I'll post part2 in coming days...!

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