A Brief History of the Berlin Film Festival

The Berlin Film Festival is hosted annually in Berlin, Germany, and it is one of the world’s leading film festivals. This reputable media event is also known as ‘Berlinale’. Each year, there are approximately 300,000 tickets sold in advance and admissions can reach 500,000. For this reason, it is now one of the best-attended film festivals in the world.

The festival was founded in 1951 in West Berlin and the first Berlinale was opened with a showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rebecca’. This movie was actually released in 1940. However, many people in Germany did not have the good fortune to see this movie because of World War II and the political and social circumstances that followed. From 1978 onwards, the film has been held annually each February.

The Golden Bear Awards are one of the awards presented each year at the festival. At the festival’s debut event, these awards were decided by a panel of German judges. Between 1952 and 1955, the winners were determined by members of the audience. From 1956 to the present day, winners of the Golden Bear Awards are decided by an international jury. Originally, there was just one Golden Bear Award for Best Motion Picture. In 1956, a second award was added for the best short film. Since 1982, there has been a third award for lifetime achievement.

In 1956, the second category of award was introduced; the Silver Bear. These awards were given for the best short film and for individual achievements in acting or directing. In 1965, a further award was added for the runner-up to the Golden Bear. Silver Bear Awards for special recognition were added to the list of awards in 1978 and an award for the best film music was included from 2002 onwards. The most recent addition to the list of the awards is the award for best screenplay, which has been included since 2008. Officially, the Silver Bear Awards were originally called the ‘Special Jury Price’ and were then called the ‘Jury Grand Prix’ from 2000.

Now, around 400 films are shown with approximately 20 competing for the Golden and Silver Bear Awards. Dieter Kosslick has been the director of the Berlin Film Festival since 2001. The festival is split into seven categories; Competition, Panorama, Forum, Generation, Perspektive Deutsches Kino, Berlinale Shorts, and Retrospective. Further to these sections, there are several curated special series. These include Forum 5, the Homage, Berlinale Special, Culinary Cinema, and Gala Special. With the exception of the Retrospective, there is a 50-second trailer shown at the beginning of each of the sections. A section director is responsible for choosing the films for each of the sections and there is a committee of experts who offer the directors advice.

Since 2003, Berlinale Talents, formerly known as ‘Berlinale Talent Campus’, has partnered with the Berlinale. Around 250 people apply to take part in the campus each year and up-and-coming filmmakers are chosen to attend the winter school. Those who attend are from across the globe and represent different sectors of the film industry. This event lasts for six days and runs alongside the Berlinale.


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