I have a long history of missing out on seeing the Competition winner, but I’m not feeling bad about that any more. Yes, the Berlinale is about prizes and bears and glitz. Without all that, there would never be a space for the small and quirky, the truly enjoyable discoveries of the huge program. Without Unknown Identity, no Household X you might say. But for me, the Berlinale is more about the experience of joining the best audience a film could hope for. And I’m not talking about the press screenings.
On Wednesday, I saw the Norwegian crowd-pleaser The Liverpool Goalie, and it was a hit for all the right reasons. Funny, imaginative, moving, it had its audience right where it wanted them. And we’re not talking about a crowd of well-behaved mini-cineastes who sit quietly and appreciatively with their hands folded in their laps. Those were kids who came whole homeroom classes at a time, whose screaming in the bus on the way to the Haus der Kulturen der Welt made me wish for way better earphones than the ones I have.
But once the film started, it had them in their grip. Okay, the kids might not have gotten the joke with the dropped soap in the shower. No matter. I haven’t been in such a wonderfully pleased crowd in a long time. And lo and behold – we even have a winner. The young K-plus jury decided that this was their favorite film, and hopefully, this means that The Liverpool Goalie gets a run in regular cinemas. I’ll be sure to snatch up my godchild and watch it again.
Getting regular distribution is something that’s actually quite rare for most Forum and Panorama-films, which is why this year had me cursing the cough that kept me out of the cinema and home far more often than I would have liked. On my list of films I missed is everything from Late Bloomers to Tomboy to Toast, Coriolanus (okay, I might not have missed a whole lot there, but I do like Shakespeare) as well as Street Kids United.
Not all Competition films get distribution either, but I hope the wave of enthusiasm carries the big winner of last night’s awards ceremony, Asghar Farhadi’s Jodaelye Nader az Simin/Nader and Simin, A Separation into cinemas. While past juries preferred to spread their favor over many films, the Isabella Rossellini-headed group gave the Iranian favorite a Golden Bear for best film and also Silver Bears for best actress (to its two female protagonists) as well as best actor (to the male ensemble of the film). I sincerely hope they find a distributor as well, and soon. From what I’ve seen and heard, it’s very worth it.
So it’s the same feeling at the end of every Berlinale. No matter how many films I manage to see, there always seem to be many more I missed. But I haven’t lost faith in Berlin’s arthouse scene, and there are other festivals throughout the year. Because as fab as the Berlinale is – and it’s as much fun as you can ever have without sunlight and sleep – it’s not the only game in town.