Berlin Film Festival: Incoming Bosses Add New Competition Section, Drop Two Sidebars

Mariette Rissenbeek, Carlo Chatrian
Filmstifftung NRW

The new competition section, called Encounters, will feature "aesthetically and structurally daring works from independent, innovative filmmakers."

Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, the new duo that will take over the Berlin International Film Festival as co-directors next year, on Tuesday unveiled their first major changes.

For the 70th Berlinale, in 2020, Chatrian and Rissenbeek have cut two festival sidebars, namely the Culinary Cinema and NATIVe sections, which featured food-focused films and indigenous cinema, respectively. And they have added a new competition section, called Encounters, which will focus on more experimental cinema.

The Encounters section, featuring a maximum of 15 films of at least one hour in length, will be judged by a three-member jury who will award prizes for best film and best director, as well as a special jury award. Organizers say the new section will aim to “support new voices in cinema and to give more room to diverse narrative and documentary forms in the official selection.”

“The 21st century with its technological and economical shifts has changed film production in many ways, making boundaries between fiction and documentary, film essay and genre, less stable and more porous,” said Berlinale artistic director Chatrian. “As the Berlinale is committed to propelling the market and discovering new cinematic visions, we have decided to create a competitive section which, alongside the international competition, will allow us to fully embrace this changing world.”

Berlin's NATIVe and Culinary Cinema sidebars, both innovations brought in by outgoing Berlinale boss Dieter Kosslick, will be discontinued. Organizers said that in the future, worthy films covering indigenous and culinary themes will find their way into Berlin's other festival sections.

The news gives Berlin watchers the first hint of Chatrian and Rissenbeek's vision for the fest. Adding a new, experimental competition section should please art house critics who accused Kosslick of being too mainstream in his selections. But it will also comfort the film industry, which doesn't want to see Berlin, at least in its main competition section, drift too far away from regular theater-going audiences.

Chatrian and Rissenbeek previously unveiled their new scouting team, which includes Jacob Wong (China, Taiwan and Hong Kong), Ryan Werner (USA), Paz Lazaro (Latin America), Eduardo Valente (Brazil), Meenakshi Shedde (India and South Asia), Maryanne Redpath (Australia and New Zealand) and Dorothee Wenner (Sub-Saharan Africa).

Norman Wang, Luciano Monteagudo, Dennis Lim and former European Film Market director Beki Probst will come on as advisors to the festival, alongside Jason Ryle, who has been an advisor on Berlin's NATIVe section since its inception eight years ago.

Chatrian and Rissenbeek will announce further changes to the Berlin festival program this summer.