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Highlights from 70 years of Berlinale

Unforgettable Berlinale Moments

The illuminated House of World Cultures as a venue at the Berlinale
The Berlinale at the House of World Cultures © KARSTEN THIELKER

Actually, the Berlinale would now be entering its final phase, the last two days would be devoted to competition films, new bear candids would be proclaimed, before the winners of the International Film Festival are announced and celebrated in a grand gala on Saturday. But this year everything is different, the audience festival takes place in June.

To shorten the wait a little and alleviate the Berlinale blues, we've been focusing on the Berlinale and Berlin's cinema landscape this week. That's why we're looking back on the visitBerlin blog at 70 years of the film festival, at films, stars, exciting anecdotes, scandals - and also very personal highlights.

No bear for anyone

Golden Bear: The main award at Berlinale film festival in Berlin
The Golden Bear © Berlinale/Foto: Ali Ghandtschi
Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin

In 1970, the festival experienced probably its biggest scandal, which ended with the dissolution of the jury. Michael Verhoeven's Vietnam film O.K. tells of the rape of a Vietnamese girl by US soldiers. The jury then wanted to remove the film from the programme because it did not meet the festival's requirement of "better understanding between peoples". There was a hail of protests and expressions of solidarity with the director. In the end, the jury disbanded and did not award a Bear - for the only time ever. The following year, the Forum was founded as a new section for politically engaged and avant-garde films.

Another Vietnam film caused the next scandal in 1979. This time the Eastern Bloc countries saw the friendship between nations violated after the screening of The Deer Hunter and pulled out indignantly.

Gina Lollobrigida is furious

Press conference at the Berlinale
Press conference © Credit: T.O.Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

Another scandal shook the festival in 1986. The film Stammheim about the German terror group RAF had already caused a stir in the run-up and could only be shown under police protection. Then it happened at the award ceremony: the jury awarded Stammheim the Golden Bear, but jury president Gina Lollobrigida vented her displeasure. The "disgusting" film had won against her will, she announced visibly angry, thus violating her duty of confidentiality.

All the members of the jury kept to this before and afterwards, so that nothing more leaked out about possible further discussions, quarrels and disagreements.

Shah Rukh Khan thrills his fans

Berlinale: Photographers on the red carpet
Photographers on the red carpet © KARSTEN THIELKER

No one had managed that before him - neither Leonardo diCaprio nor George Clooney. When the Berlinale 2008 announced the Indian mega-superstar Shah Rukh Khan with his film Om Shanti Om, the Berlinale website collapsed. Fans camped out in front of the Kino International and patiently held out for hours. And Shah Rukh Khan did not disappoint them, he let himself be celebrated by the cheering crowd, patiently signed autographs, took forever before and also after the film until all his fans could go home happy. The screening turned into a gigantic party - a highlight that everyone still raves about today.

Later, Shah Rukh Khan came to the Berlinale again for My Name is Khan and Don 2. He even filmed the latter in Berlin, and there, too, each of his appearances became an enthusiastic fan festival.

Weird moments on the red carpet

Berlinale: Berlinale Palast
Auf dem roten Teppich vor dem Berlinale Palast © visitBerlin, Foto: Wolfgang Scholvien

Other stars showed themselves far less accessible or surprised with weird clothes and bizarre behaviour. Unforgettable are the appearances of actress Bai Ling, who showed a lot of skin in her outfits on the red carpet, earning her the nickname "Berlinackte" (Berlinude).
Shia LaBeouf was much more covered up. He appeared at the premiere of his film with a paper bag with the slogan "I am not famous anymore" on his head.  Earlier, he had simply cut short the press conference, thus leaving press and audience alike perplexed.

The Berlinale is a surprise bag

Berlinale - Facade of cinema  Zoopalast
The facade of Zoopalast © ©2016 Scholvien

The film selection at the Berlinale is of course always a surprise bag, because the audience often doesn't know exactly what to expect. Everyone chooses from the 400 or so films that sound promising, whether because of the genre, the participants, the country or simply because the film still fits into a time slot.
Whatever the audience might have expected from the Taiwanese competition film The Wayward Cloud, they got a wild mix of shrill musical numbers, sad love story and explicit erotic scenes. So it went down in the history of the strangest Berlinale films with the nickname "The Melon Porn Musical" - and was awarded a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Achievement.

The Berlinale queue

Waiting for tickets at Berlinale
Berlinale: Ticket counter © KARSTEN THIELKER

The Berlinale is the biggest audience festival of all - the audience gives the festival its unique character. The real heart of the festival is the Berlinale queue, those spectators who patiently queue for tickets, hoping to get the tickets for their desired films. The first eager Berlinale-goers set up camp in front of the ticket booths the night before, because the coveted tickets are sold out quickly, especially if it's the tickets in the stalls and not the ones in the second tier.

In the morning, the queue has grown, and now everyone is planning their film selection for the day, exchanging ideas, reporting on the films they should have seen and those they should rather avoid.

Over the years, the enthusiasm for spending ten days in the cinema, immersing oneself in new film worlds and experiencing more unforgettable moments at the Berlinale has remained unbroken.

Kristin: visitBerlin-Bloggerin unter


doesn't smile on fotos. But in real life she enjoys with a smile in her face Berlin's rich cultural life - the metropolis both in front of and behind the scenes. Her favourite season is the Berlinale, then she spends 10 days watching movies and writing about them in the blog.