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Berlinale Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian Talks Final Selection : “I Have A Positive Feeling, Not One Of Melancholy. I’m Not Sad.”

Berlinale Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian announced his final Competition and Encounters line-ups on Monday ahead of bowing out of the festival alongside Managing Director Mariette Rissenbeek at the end of the upcoming 74th edition in February.

News of Chatrian’s ousting by the German Culture Minister Claudia Roth back in September prompted anger in some quarters of Europe’s indie film biz. The seasoned festival programer made it clear at the time that he wanted to stay on but now appears to have made peace with the decision.

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“It’s true that in the beginning I said I was willing to go on with the shared role. But then the people who are responsible for the future of the Berlinale thought this structure of two leaders was not the right one and I don’t consider myself able to run the festival alone,” he told Monday’s press conference in response to a question on his departure.

“So it’s the end and there will be a new person [former BFI head Tricia Tuttle] to whom I think we both give our best to keep on the great tradition of this festival. So you don’t have to be shocked.”

In keeping with his previous four line-ups, two of which came together under pandemic conditions, Chatrian’s final selection has delivered a diverse Competition mixing established and emerging talents.

Deadline caught up briefly with the outgoing artistic director after the announcement.

DEADLINE: This is your last selection as Berlinale artistic director, how do you feel?

CARLO CHATRIAN: We work hard to put together the films we consider the best fit for the program, not just for the Competition but the line-up in general. This year wasn’t any different.

I’ve known since September that it would be the last one, but I’ve focused on the films and not put myself before them.  It’s always interesting to see afterwards how the selection looks and where films we have selected want to take us.

This year’s Competition is a good mix of established artists and new voices, which is what I’ve tried to do every year, so yeah, I have a positive feeling, not one of melancholy. I’m not sad.  I think the films speak for themselves.

DEADLINE: Isn’t it a risk to play a first film like Maryam Joobeur’s ‘Who Do I Belong To’ [about a Tunisian mother coming to terms with the return home of her ISIS fighter son with a pregnant young wife] alongside works by established filmmakers such as Bruno Dumont and Olivier Assayas.

CHATRIAN:  Part of the DNA of the Berlin Film Festival is to never be afraid about giving the most prominent platform to young filmmakers. Films like this are telling a story that is relevant not only for Tunisia but for the whole world, but in a non-conventional way.

In my years, I’ve tried to push that a little bit more than usual. Pepe [about a young hippo who is murdered in the Colombian jungle and returns as a  ghost] is another good example of a film that goes a little bit outside known territories from a storytelling point of view.

I like to put a film like this or the other first film Gloria alongside a film with a more classical style like Abderrahmane Sissako’s Black Tea or Olivier’s Assayas with his new film [Suspended Time], in which he does things in a different way from the body of his work.

DEADLINE: Bruno Dumont is back in Competition for the first time in 11 years, after Camille Claudel 1915 in 2013, with his long-awaited sci-fi feature The Empire. Is it a full-blown sci-fi movie as promised or more of a typical Dumont film?

CHATRIAN: It’s both. It’s one of the funniest films we have. I’m happy to have some comedy alongside films which tackle the present times in a very direct way. On the one side, it’s a sci fi. The special effects are quite amazing. Of course, it’s not Star Wars, but they are done in a clever way. And it is also Bruno Dumont, so it plays with is his usual tropes, putting together actors from different backgrounds, mixing the likes of Fabrice Lucchini with non-professionals. It plays with sex, the landscape of northern France and the idea of power. It’s a satire so nothing should be taken on a first-degree level. It’s the opposite of our other political films. In the balance we’re trying to achieve, The Empire plays an important role.

DEADLINE: It feels like there are fewer Asian titles in the Competition and Encounters mix. There’s a lot of talk that the Asian film biz is increasingly disinterested in Europe. Do you think this is a sign of this?

CHATRIAN: A couple of Chinese we were expecting were not ready. In terms of representation, there is one film from Korea in Competition [Hong Sangsoo’s A Traveler’s Needs], another one from Nepal [Min Bahadur’s Shambala]. We have another very strong Indian film in Encounters [Raam Reddy’s The Fable]. We also have a Japanese film that could have played as an Encounter movie but because of the cast we preferred to put it Out of Competition as a Berlinale Special [Gakuryu’s The Box Man].

It’s true that we have fewer films from China but as you know I don’t work with quotas. I look at the films we receive. This year we have more from Europe. Last year, we had none from the African continent, this year we have three, although Abderrahmane Sissako’s Black Tea film is 60% shot in in Taiwan.

DEADLINE: There’s a sense that the Berlinale struggles to reel in the big hitting indie U.S. star vehicles in the same way as Cannes or Venice. What’s you’re take on this?

CHATRIAN: We’re opening with a film [the Irish-Belgian co-production Small Things Like These] with Cillian Murphy who is one of the biggest stars of the moment. From the U.S., we have La Cocina by Mexican filmmaker Alonso Ruizopalacios with Rooney Mara. We have Sebastian Stan in A Different Man.

But it’s fair to say that the big movies increasingly tend to target the fall festivals, because of the awards campaigns.  Studios films are also less present in the first and second quarter of the year. The gap between the number of the films premiering in the summer and the fall and the first quarter of the year is increasing.

Speaking from my five years at the festival, there are films that are good for the galas and films that are good for the Competition. Films in Competition have to have a distinctive voice. I’m not saying that big budget films don’t have that but it’s maybe harder to find films that combine both sides for Competition.

Outside of Competition we have Kristen Stewart in Love Lies Bleeding, Lena Dunham in Treasure, Amanda Seyfried in Seven Veils, films that have great content and style but are maybe less distinctive in voice than the films we have in Competition.

DEADLINE: But they’re not World Premieres…

CHATRIAN: Treasure is, but the others are not but as I said before the number of films premiering in the fall festivals, in the Venice line-up to mention the most obvious one, is different from Berlin, and this comes from the strategies of the streamers and the studios lately.

To be honest, that’s not my main concern.  For me, it’s more about having the right films and showcasing as many different kinds of storytelling and languages as possible.

DEADLINE: Kristen Stewart was at the Berlinale last year as jury president, will she be back this year?

CHATRIAN: Yes. All the stars we have invited are expected to be here and have confirmed their presence. We also have actors known maybe more by younger people for their Marvel roles such as Sebastian Stan. It will be fun to see youngsters come to the cinema to watch them in another type of movie.

DEADLINE: And we haven’t mentioned Spaceman which is a world premiere…

CHATRIAN: This is thanks to Netflix, so we have Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan attending. I think the glamour aspect on the red carpet is a good one this year. It might be different compared to other festivals, but we are Berlin.

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