Receiving Variety‘s Achievement in International Film Award, Berlin Film Festival chief Dieter Kosslick bid a fond farewell to the event Monday as the end credits loom after his good humored and productive 18-year epic reign.
Speaking at the prize-giving event Monday at the Audi Berlinale Lounge – which overlooks the entrance to the fest’s main venue, the Berlinale Palast – to a hand-picked crowd of colleagues and industry friends, including actress Tilda Swinton – Kosslick said he was “honored” and “moved” to receive the award, as he gazed out wistfully through the window at the red carpet.
“It was 18 years of excitement and it was also really fun,” he said. In recent days, as people said goodbye, he had “become a little melancholic,” he said, but considered it to have been “a privilege” to run the festival.
Kosslick said this would have been beyond his wildest dreams when he started going to the cinema in his home village as a six-year-old, every Sunday afternoon, with a ticket costing one Deutsche Mark, given to him by his mother. He joked that those visits may have actually been prompted by his mother’s desire to spend the afternoons alone with her new boyfriend. “So, in a way, I am a product of love,” he said, as well as “a love of cinema.”
Kosslick said that he was still “disappointed” that no one laughed at his joke at last year’s opening night when the ceremony’s host Anke Engelke asked him on stage: “What is the name of Lars von Trier’s dog?” and he replied spontaneously, “Dogme.”
Despite the poor audience response, Kosslick insisted that this joke was one of his best. “I completely understand that most of my jokes you can’t laugh [at them], but you can pretend and say you liked it.”
Delivering the award on behalf of Variety, the paper’s Asia Editor, Patrick Frater, said: “Film festivals, like films themselves, are strange, powerful and intangible forces. To succeed, festivals need to make smart selections, of course. And to be professionally managed. Of course. The very best festivals actually have character.
“Dieter Kosslick has shared some of his own personality, and over a period of 18 years has given character to this festival. To such a point that, along with the bears on loan from Berlin city zoo, Dieter’s hat and red scarf have become one of the icons of Berlin.”
Frater described Kosslick as “a complicated character” – to which Kosslick quipped: “This is what my shrink always says: ‘It would be much cheaper for you if you were a little bit simpler.”
Frater referred to Kosslick as a “committed European” – to which Kosslick responded, “Yes, it’s true, I like German and European culture … and Germany is not leaving [Europe],” referring to Brexit, which was greeted with wild cheers.
Frater said: “Dieter is an enthusiast, who can win new friends with just a twinkle, or a wonderfully over the top compliment.
“He is also a clever consensus builder, who listens carefully even while he is the one making the jokes. Dieter is above all a compelling communicator. Even as he mangles language or makes far-fetched suggestions, he draws people in.” To this last sentence, Kosslick responded: “This is not true.”
Frater also spoke of Kosslick’s career before joining the Berlinale, included his time in charge of the German regional film fund Filmstiftung NRW, and as chief of the European Film Distribution Office, where he was a “pioneer” in pan-European film distribution.