German Filmmakers Call for "New Beginning" at Berlin Festival

Arno Burgi/Newscom
Dieter Kosslick

In an open letter, 79 directors, including Maren Ade ('Toni Erdmann') and Fatih Akin ('In the Fade') say Germany's leading film fest needs an overhaul when longtime director Dieter Kosslick steps down in 2019.

Several dozen of Germany's top directors, including Oscar-nominated Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann) and In the Fade filmmaker Fatih Akin, have signed an open letter calling for a “new beginning” at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The letter, first published exclusively on Spiegel Online, calls for a major overhaul at Germany's leading film fest once longtime director Dieter Kosslick steps down. Kosslick, who has run the Berlin Festival since 2001, is under contract through 2019.

In their letter, the directors — including such art house luminaries as Christian Petzold, Andreas Dresen, Volker Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta — say the end of the Kosslick era offers an opportunity to “renew and revive” the Berlinale. They call for a new selection committee, made up of an equal number of men and women, to change the overall direction of the festival. One name conspicuously missing from the letter's signatories is helmer Tom Tykwer, a longtime Kosslick supporter and international jury president for the 2018 Berlinale.

Under Kosslick, the Berlinale has grown in size and importance. It is the world's largest public film festival and, with the European Film Market, still one of the most important industry events on the calendar. But, particularly in recent years, it has been sharply criticized. While Cannes has cemented its position as the leading festival for international art house cinema and Venice has established itself as a launchpad for Oscar contenders, Berlin, according to its critics, has lost its way.

Kosslick issued a statement in response to the open letter.

"I can understand the directors' call for a transparent process for the renewal of the Berlinale, the future of the Berlinale is an issue for all of us," he said. Kosslick said he would make suggestions for the restructuring of the event after his exit but the final decision would rest with the festival's supervisory board and German culture minister Monika Grutters.  Kosslick's term as director of the Berlin Film Festival runs through May 31, 2019.