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The 72nd Berlin International Film Festival will take place from February 10 to 17, 2022 under the motto "It all (re)starts here".
Our team of festival ambassadors and reporters brings you the dailies from the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market and keep an eye on past editions archives. WATCH OUR VIDEO COVERAGE TRAILERS INTERVIEWS AND AMBIANCE   PHOTOS

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Berlin, weather and the fading landmarks of memory lane

The weather this Berlinale has been more or less "as usual" -- chilly, around freezing every day, a few snowflakes in the air, and brightly overcast -- no sunshine, but bright cloudy days casting a bright silver haze on the cobblestone meadows of Potsdamer Platz -- the kind of bracing weather that makes one happy to be inside a warm cinema rather than out on a tempting beach ... like at Cannes, Venice, or San Sebastian.

Berlinale veterans --which means anyone who was here before the move to the present glitzy Potsdamer Platz surroundings at the turn of the millennium in 2000 -- will (perhaps) fondly remember the days when the festival was centered in West Berlin (miles away from here) on Budapesterstrasse, directly across from the bombed out WW II skeleton of the Memorial Church  (the "Gedächtniskirche"), and the sturdy edifice of the ZOO Palast theater was the venue for red carpet galas.  Back then most of the films were screened at the Zoo Palace itself or at a variety of classic cinemas on the elegant Kurfürstendam boulevard and elsewhere in the upscale Charlottenberg District. 

Since my hotel is right at Zoological Garden train station I was slightly shocked upon my first view of the city emerging from the station on Day one of my current stay.  Biff-bam -- the towering ruins of the Gedächtniskirche -- one of Berlin's best known landmarks, and a beautifully grim reminder of the World War launched by the Nazis -- is now nearly invisible, shrouded in white scaffold paneling all the way up -- like a sky-scraping Wildroot Haircreme advertisement ... and the long arcade with all the bargain shops that used to be the front of the festival headquarters, is now solidly boarded up from stem to stern.  But, horror of horrors -- the Zoo Palast is also inaccessible behind boards, with a gaping nothingness where gigantic images, up till last year, announced festival events on the soaring white facade above the teeming street.

The Budapester arcades are apparently skedded for total destruction and redevelopment, but, hopefully, the Zoo Palast theater itself, since it is an authentic historical landmark -- will only be cleaned up --refurbished and conserved in, hopefully, a recognizable resurrection.

(Between You, me and the Wall, dear reader -- the Zoo Palast was a much more comfortable place to watch movies that the cavernous post-modern Berlinale Palast which is basically designed to view staged musicals --not flickering images on a screen)

As for the old cinemas with names such as The Astor, the Gloria and Cinema Paris -- some have disappeared and a few still function, but not as Berlinale venues. Particularly sad is the passing of the old Astor across from Kranzler Ecke, which was an art nouveau architectural throwback to the twenties and served as the venue for homages and nostalgic retrospectives -- the films of Bette Davis, Kim Novak, William Wyler, et al, in a most fitting historical setting.  Until last year the Zoo Palast was still the venue for the films of the Childrens section, but now the whole shebang has been relocated to the glimmering new venues of Potsdamer Platz as Budapesterstrasse memories fade into oblivion.

Well, not quite --there is still one Berlinale holdout in Charlottenberg, the rather stately, slightly quaint Delphi Cinema across from the Astoria Hotel, which still houses the Forum section of the festival, affording local film buffs a chance to see some off-beat foreign films without having to make a trip to Mitte where the Berlin Wall once divided the city into East-was-East and West-was-West. Where once in the not-too-distant past the Kempinski-Kudamm was the main VIP hostelry for the festival, it's now the Adlon (also a Kempinski hotel) at the Brandenberg Gate.  Last night, at the aforementioned Berlinale Palast from the uppermost stratospheric balcony,  I watched the Adlon go up in flames during a terrorist attack -- but fortunately, it was only a movie -- "Unknown" -- a slam-bang thriller filmed entirely in Berlin, but with a story so convoluted and turgid that it would be best avoided unless you happen to be an unconditional Liam Neeson or Dianne Krüger fan.

by Alex Deleon

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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
Ambiance, film reviews, trailers and podcasts, EFM insider information, and much more.
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