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Christoph Terhechte: about his Berlinale Forum

Established in 1970 as an independent section of the Berlinale the Forum
is considered by many observers as the most innovative, experimental and reflexive part of the Berlinale. Focusing on films presenting alternative,
politically engaged and independent perspectives, including many from developing countries the Forum is the least commercial of all festival sections. Christoph Terhechte who had worked since 1997 with Ulrich Gregor, one of the co-founders of the Forum, assumed direction of the Forum in 2001.


Claus Mueller
Compared to the 2005 Forum, what is the single most important change you noticed with respect to the films you selected?

Christoph Terhechte
The Forum does not distinguish between features and documentaries, but everyone noticed there were some particularly strong documentaries this year. Films like the Japanese-Korean DEAR PYONGYANG by Yang Yong-hi (which took the NETPAC award), Ben Hopkins' 37 USES FOR A DEAD SHEEP (Caligari Award), the Austrian-Italian BABOOSKA by Rainer Frimmel and Tizza Covi (Staudte Award) or Olivier Meyrou's AU DELA DE LA HAINE (Teddy Award) prove the popularity of
documentaries in European cinemas

CM How do you position the Forum vis a vis Panorama and other section of
the Berlinale....and how do you manage to retain the distinct Forum identity?
CT I would define the Forum as the edgiest, most challenging program of
the festival, with a particular focus on debuts and a young in
spirit, "wild cinema". The Panorama, on the other hand, has to fulfill
a role as the Competition program's extension, thereby naturally
closer to commercial, mainstream cinema. But of course the programs
do and have to overlap. I am glad to see four films by directors who
showed their debuts in the Forum in this year's Competition lineup.

CM What is the single most important problem you have organizing the Forum?
CT Ideally we would screen films until the end of the year and only then
make a selection. However, there are too many other festivals, and
filmmakers and producers are too eager to accept early invitations,
to wait that long. Therefore we have to start inviting some titles as
early as September, and it is not always easy to maintain the balance
between early and late invitations.

CM What are your criteria of selection?
CT There are no written criteria, but in general, the longer we discuss
a film in our selection committee, the better is often fits our
program. The Forum is about inciting debates between filmmakers and
audiences, and the long Q&A's after all screening are almost as
important as the films.

CM How do you assess the impact of new production (digital) and
distribution (DVDs) technologies?
CT We have been showing video works as early as the 1970's, and most of
our cinemas are fully equipped with the latest digital technology.
The Forum has always tried to encourage distribution of its films
after the festival, and we keep doing so with the new formats

CM What are three film makers which had the greatest influence on you?
CT Maurice Pialat, Yasujiro Ozu, Howard Hawks

CM If you had more funding for the Forum what would you add or change?
CT The Forum has solid funding, but if we could spend more money, we
could be more generous in providing filmmakers with air travel, and
we could buy more 35mm prints to distribute after the festival. But
we would certainly not enlarge the program, as we think that small is
beautiful.

CM Have you ever been involved in film making?
CT Besides 8mm- and Super-8-films, no.

CM How important are US independents for your program?
CT US independents have always played an important role in our lineup.
In 2006, there were no less than 5 US titles among 40 films.

CM Do you plan any changes for 2007?
CT You always have to learn from the mistakes you made in previous
years, but there will be no major changes as far as we can see now.

CM Thank you... Until next year

Claus Mueller, New York Correspondent
filmexchange@gmail.com

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