Berlinale director is a man to be reckoned with

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Dieter Kosslick, who prides himself on being on a first name basis with many of the biggest names in the movie business, is beloved by Berliners, film distributors and stars.

Berlin -- The charismatic, impish Dieter Kosslick revels in his role as the director of the Berlin Film Festival.

Having gained the post in 2001, the 57-year-old Kosslick has succeeded in boosting the Berlinale's profile in recent years as it competes with rival film festivals in Cannes and Venice.

Kosslick bustles from one appointment to the next in the run-up to the ten-day Berlinale, which is one of the world's top three film festivals and which opens on Thursday.

Berliners love him, and so do the film distributors as well as the stars, with Kosslick priding himself on being on a first name basis with many of the biggest names in the movie business.

Previously, Kosslick headed a state-run film foundation in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

There, he gained a reputation for promoting small films, claiming at the time that if the film world failed to cultivate new talent "there'll soon be nobody left in 10 years to make the big films."

That he meant business was clear when he became Berlin Film Festival director and created the Berlinale Talent Campus, which is now an enormously popular event among young filmmakers from around the world.

Some 3,834 ambitious young talents from 128 countries responded to the 2009 call for applications, including from Botswana, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Mongolia.

Since taking over as festival director, Kosslick has also moved to successfully use the Berlinale to showcase German cinema. About 90 German productions are to be screened in Berlin this year.

In all, more than 6,000 films were submitted to the Berlinale for this year's main program -- a record. There were 386 films chosen for 1,286 screenings in the festival's various sections.

This means 32 films will be shown each day. Add to that the 679 additional films being viewed by film buyers at the European Film Market, the business side of the festival, and the total jumps to an average of 89 festival screenings daily.

Kosslick bubbles with enthusiasm. Last week, he told a press conference that the festival’s opening film, German-born director Tom Tywker's “The International,” is "a film for our time, about the financial machinations of banks."

Starring Clive Owen as an obsessive Interpol agent and Naomi Watts as a Manhattan assistant district attorney, the movie tracks the illegal activities of one of the world's most powerful banks.

In a festival release, Kosslick also said that directors are now trying to look at more personal situations. The festival includes many new films that delve into the effects of war.

Some movies, he says, tell stories about "what it could mean for a four-year-old child to lose his or her father, or for a newly- married woman to lose her husband on the battlefield."

Other films explore what it was like for soldiers returning to so-called normal society after spending two years being drilled to kill, he said.

Regarding other trends, Kosslick says more and more films -- both documentaries and large scale productions -- are also now focusing on food and food production.

"There is a movement starting up, and I'm not just talking about environmentalists," he said. "Everyday people are standing up and saying, it can't go on like this."

Food production, he said in a press release, will be an important topic at the 2009 Berlinale.

“Food Inc,” for instance, attempts to uncover manipulation in the food industry. "It is an international apocalyptic scenario," Kosslick said.

Kosslick did not stop short in offering his own assessment of food politics: "If people don't start thinking differently, and especially if production methods are not changed, we're soon going to be experiencing in the food industry what we are now experiencing in the banking sector -- a real disaster."

Clive Freeman/DPA/Expatica

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