Thursday, February 08, 2007

Landscape and Memory

As a native Berliner who doesn't always make it back for the Berlin Film Festival, I tend to forget there's often something bittersweet about seeing this city come alive -- as it has in recent days -- in the lead-up to the Berlinale, opening in a few hours time. Berlin is a city that demands of its visitors a memory of its past and a knowledge of the layers that lie beneath.

As the starlets exit their limousines on Marlene-Dietrich-Platz tonight to strut the red carpet, one wonders how many will know or care that the Wall once stood within sight; just beyond echoes still haunt the 'death strip' where so many of our fellow Berliners died attempting to escape to the West. And how many tonight in their designer gowns will consider that to the north of Potsdamer Platz just a few hundred meters lies the The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Once the films begin, however, the joy and pride of hosting this festival rapidly consumes our emotions. Arguably, no other artistic medium so successfully expresses this layering of history, as well as the urgency and essentialness of collective memory. With 373 films on the roster, festival director Dieter Kosslick awakens us with the world's memory for two weeks, recorded by many of the best practitioners from around the globe working today. For that we are proud and we can only say, willkommen.

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