Dieter Kosslick defends Berlin competition

'Many films split the critics this year,' fest director says

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Q&A: Dieter Kosslick

BERLIN -- The 59th Berlinale has been the best of times and the worst of times for festival director Dieter Kosslick. While this year's fest has smashed all boxoffice records -- the total tally of tickets sold has already hit a record 270,000  -- critics have been especially brutal in lambasting the 2009 competition lineup.

Lukas Moodysson's "Mammoth," Bertrand Tavernier's "In the Electric Mist" and especially Sally Potter's "Rage" have received the worst cultural drubbing, with many questioning the reasoning behind their inclusion in Berlin's A-list section.

Kosslick dismisses much of the critique as just more of the same from an impossible-to-satisfy cadre of film critics.

"There's a difference between watching a film at 9 a.m. with disappointed journalists and seeing the same film at night with enthusiastic viewers," Kosslick told The Hollywood Reporter, noting the festival's tremendous success with "ordinary" filmgoers in Berlin.

"I think what was interesting was how many films split critics this year," he added. "You have French critics calling (Francois Ozon's competition entry) 'Ricky' a masterpiece of the century and others tearing it up."

The Berlinale director also defends his choice to include arguably lesser titles from well-known directors.

"One of the duties of a film festival is to follow a director on his or her career," Kosslick said. "They don't only make masterpieces."

And this year's Berlinale has had its share of highlights -- including the two warmly received German competition titles: Maren Ade's "Everyone Else" and Hans-Christian Schmid's "Storm"; Iranian film "About Elly" from director Asghar Farhadi; Richard Bouchareb's "London River" and Spanish title "The Milk of Sorrow" from Claudia Llosa. But with no single standout masterpiece, handicapping the Berlinale Golden Bear winner on Saturday is proving a difficult task.

Whatever the choice, be certain it will be praised and damned in equal measure by critics here. But Kosslick won't be bothered. He's already extended his contract with the Berlinale through to 2013, ensuring another four years of the critics and the craziness that defines Berlin.