Berlinale Summer Special – Impressions from the first festival week

This year’s Berlinale takes place in two parts due to corona. On the regular date in March, the Industry Event already took place, where the Bears were also awarded. The second part, the Berlinale Summer Special, has now been running for a week in Berlin’s open-air cinemas. Thus, the visitors* can exceptionally enjoy the summer green Berlin. In addition to the Panorama Audience Award, this year there is also the Audience Award Competition. Both will be awarded on June 20.

Berlinale Summer Special – Impressions from the first festival week

There was a lot of discussion in the run-up to the staging of the 71st Berlinale under pandemic conditions. In the end, it was the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Monika Grütters, who put the Berlinale management under pressure and demanded that it take place. The result was a split in two. The industry event in March for the filmmakers, including the announcement of the winners of the Bears. The public part then in summer with screenings as usual in the cinemas.

But the pandemic just wouldn’t let up and the measures to fight it got tougher. The public event in summer was again on the brink, because the infection level was simply too high to imagine screenings in closed cinemas as early as June. So there was another rescheduling. The result was the Berlinale Summer Special in Berlin’s open-air cinemas. Everyone was relieved about this compromise.

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Open-air cinemas enrich the Berlinale

Das Freilichtkino Weißensee – ©Peter Kreibich

The open-air cinemas were also pleased, which are otherwise not among the venues. The Verein der Freunde der Freilichtbühne Weißensee runs the venue of the same name. Rob Homsi is one of the organizers there and would also like to see greater involvement in the future.

“The festival visitors* are used to going from cinema hall to cinema hall, where everything looks more or less the same,” Rob describes his impression to us. “The open-air cinemas in Berlin all have a different backdrop, which adds to the atmosphere and the cinematic experience. I perceive this as an enrichment of the festival and I hope there will be a movement towards more outdoor festivals in the future.”

New audience award in competition

Die Berlinale-Jury und -Leitung mit den Preisträger*innen der Bären – © Ali Ghandtschi

The Summer Special has been running since June 9 and will continue until June 20. The films of the festival are shown in 16 open-air cinemas all over Berlin. And now, finally, some of the bears could be handed over to the winners. On June 13, the awards ceremony for the Competition and the Berlinale Shorts took place on Museum Island. The prizes of the Encounters section and the Berlinale Documentary Film Prize were also awarded here.

New this year is the Audience Award of the Competition. Here, during the Summer Special, viewers* have the opportunity to vote on the 15 participating films, which were already judged by the jury in March. As every year, there is of course also the Panorama Audience Award. For this, ballot boxes will be set up at the venues, where visitors can cast their ballots. Both prizes will be awarded together with the screening of the winning film on June 20. The Competition Prize will be awarded at the Museum Island; the Panorama Prize at the Kreuzberg open-air cinema.

Reunion under the open sky

Das ARTE Sommerkino – © Dirk Michael Deckbar

The Berlinale Summer Special is characterized by happy faces. The visitors enjoy the event in fantastic summer weather, the social interaction and the exchange between fans and filmmakers. “Now is the chance to come together, to celebrate the reunion of the people.”, said producer Jörn Möllenkamp in the first Berlinale Highlight video. The Berlinale is a first cultural breath during a grueling pandemic and a first reunion of the film industry on the analog red carpet.

Thomas Reinecke of Freiluftkino Friedrichshagen also emphasizes the exchange and shared experience of the films:

“An essential part of a film festival is the exchange with the filmmakers. Being there in the evening and catching the reactions of the audience during the screening are very important insights for every artist. Since we people generally like to seek freedom in the evenings during the summer, the concept of the Summer Special is definitely a concept worth thinking about again.”

The Berlinale management had shown little enthusiasm in advance regarding alternative solutions. Who knows if the Berlinale would have taken place at all had it not been for the pressure from Monika Grütters. Whether the Summer Special concept will become established is of course questionable, since the Berlinale traditionally takes place at the beginning of March, when generally no one likes to be outdoors. In any case, it is a nice opportunity for Berlin’s open-air theaters to participate in the festival.

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