Berlin Film Festival to Take Place in Two Stages Due to COVID-19

Berlin International Film Festival — Getty — H 2020
Omer Messinger/Getty Image

Organizers have unveiled changes to the 71st Berlinale.

The Berlin Film Festival on Thursday unveiled major changes to its 71st edition, which will see it split into two stages, with the first stage shifting online because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Berlinale 2021 Will Be a Festival in Two Stages: Industry Online Offer in March/Public Event in June," organizers said in the headline of a statement. "Due to the current COVID-19 situation, the 71st Berlin International Film Festival has developed a new festival format for 2021 and is pleased to be able to hold the festival for the industry and the public," it said. "The industry platforms European Film Market, Berlinale Co-Production Market, Berlinale Talents and the World Cinema Fund will kick off the 71st Berlinale in March with an online offer. In June, there will be a summer event with numerous film screenings for the public audiences – in cinemas as well as open air. The division allows to maintain the two supporting pillars: film market and festival."

In place of the regular festival, Berlin is looking to screen its main competition section online-only and will hold a mini festival with on-site premieres in the German capital this summer. The model would be Cannes' three-day festival this past October, which wrapped up just as France entered its second lockdown.

The moves were expected after rising COVID-19 infection rates forced Germany into a second full lockdown this week. Restrictions, which include the shuttering of schools and all non-essential shops and businesses, will extend at least until Jan. 10.

The 71st Berlin festival was originally scheduled for Feb. 11-Feb. 21, 2021, but as the pandemic progressed, it became increasingly unlikely that organizers would be able to stick to those dates.

The European Film Market (EFM), the industry event that runs parallel to the Berlinale, which had already announced plans to incorporate online screenings and market events into its 2021 edition, will be an all-virtual affair. This probably suits the international film industry, which is by now accustomed to virtual markets — following online-only events in Cannes and at AFM — and would prefer doing a virtual EFM early in the year to waiting for late spring or early summer and a possible conflict with the Cannes market. Cannes 2021 is currently set for May, but organizers have said they will push the festival and market to late June or early July if necessary.