There is much buzz in the city right now, with the Berlinale starting on February 11th.
You have to be hiding under a rock to miss this year’s posters for the festival with the city’s mascot – a bear – just casually positioned in some of Berlin’s most well known locations. However many locals seem to avoid the event under the misconception that they have to queue for tickets for hours and let’s face it who has the time for that these days?
Well if you’re an avid film lover and have time to read this post, we’ve got some inside tips to help you navigate the festival and see some of the greatest filmmaking that Europe has to offer! The Berlinale website has a lot of information to wade through so we suggest starting with the programme (in German and English) and getting a sense of what the festival involves. There are a number of different sections and they are all explained in detail here, with links to each section for further information. If you have an idea of the section that’s most interesting to you that will help you dive into the programme, but one of the great parts of the Berlinale is allowing yourself to be surprised, so don’t get too caught up on the sections!
On the programme page, there’s a great planner you can use if you sign up. Make your choices, then save them to your planner to keep track of what you want to see and when. To search for films, you can search by section, venue, country of origin of the film, date and time. You can also buy tickets online but a limited number are released and there is a €1.50 surcharge.
If you are only here for a few days and want to stay local then searching by venue is a good way to start. For example if you choose Zoo Palast; All dates; All times you will get a good list already to start with. The three venues closest to the hotel are the elegant and atmospheric Zoo Palast which is just 500 metres away (near Zoologischer Station,) Delphi Filmpalast (Kantstrasse) and Haus der Berliner Festspiele also just a short walk away (Schaperstraße). Much of the Berlinale activity is centred around Potsdamer Platz also only a short train or taxi ride away. Ask the concierge for directions and see the venues list for all the details. So this gives you at least 9 cinemas to choose from just to start! (Arsenal, Berlinale Palast, Canadian Embassy, Cinemaxx, Cinestar, Cinestar IMAX, Delphi Filmpalast, Haus der Berliner Festspiele and Zoo Palast). All foreign films have English subtitles but maybe you prefer to see a film in one of your spoken languages, so specifying country may help narrow down your choices even further.
Getting tickets can be tricky but it all depends on your approach. If you are desperate to see something and really don’t want to miss out then queuing for tickets the day they go on sale may be your best option Most films tickets go on sale three (or four) days before the screening, so for example ticket booths open Monday 8th at 10am for films screening on the 11th, but tickets for films screening on the 12th in most cases will be unavailable. The main ticket booths are at Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, Kino International, Haus der Berliner Festspiele or Audi City Berlin. However advance tickets for all films at the following venues can be bought at those venues: Friedrichstadt-Palast, HAU, venues screening Culinary Cinema, and Berlinale Goes Kiez venues. Also tickets for Berlinale Publikumstag on Feb 21; this is the last day of the festival and all tickets are €8. Note: usually only 2 tickets can be purchased at a time per film, except for screenings in culinary cinema which have no limit.
If you’re flexible about what you see, you can also just try your luck and show up on the day at the cinema of your choice to see what tickets are available. Some of the smaller cinemas – especially the neighbourhood venues that are part of Berlinale Goes Kiez – will have tickets, and if you’re really stuck, you may even find someone who DID queue for tickets, standing out front trying to offload a spare because they couldn’t find anyone to go with them. Also, all remaining tickets for a screening are sold at 50% off the ticket price half an hour before the film starts.
The greatest thing about the Berlinale is new films on limited release that you may only get to see THIS February at THIS festival. Many independent films are launched at the Berlinale, then make their way through the European festival circuit. Then someone from the production finds themselves a year later, blinded by the bright lights of the oscars stage, making an acceptance speech – and you went to their little film that nobody had even heard of a year before!
There are of course celebrities and red carpets and all the glitz and glamour of film on offer at the Berlinale, however if you wouldn’t go to a red carpet premiere normally then why now? Many of these films are just premiering at the Berlinale and will hit mainstream cinemas in a few weeks. Do you really want to see that film or are you just getting seduced by Berlinale fever?
If you are that’s ok too – hit the queues at Potsdamer Platz and embrace the fandom. Enjoy the Berlinale!