‘There’s a place out there for us’
Filmmaker Paakhi A Tyrewala, who is part of a special delegation at the Berlin International Film Festival this year, shares the process of getting her film selected
Day 1: A rocky start for me. I learnt an important lesson— when Germans say 8.45 pm they mean 8.40 pm not 9.00 pm. I was the last one to enter. Once I had suitably apologised I looked around and saw 24 people from 24 different countries, and all looked very impressive. As the evening progressed, a realisation dawned on me, they were as excited and as clueless as me. I was going to fit right in.
Day 2: The first session was slotted for 8.45 am. I have taken my seat at 8.40. Our first session is with Ms Dorothee Wenner, a member of the selection committee. If you don’t know who she is, you should. An expert on sub-Sahara Africa and India, making her the most powerful person in India when it comes to selections for Berlinale. Her recommendations are highly valued so if you want to impress someone it’s her.
She described Berlinale as sexy, edgy and aggressive and that’s pretty much what they are looking for in their films they select. I would personally add political. To understand Berlinale, you have to understand Berlin. They have history of colonisation and Holocaust which they are ashamed of and bringing down the Berlin Wall that they are proud of. In World War II they were ruined to the ground. They have been the aggressor and the victim. Post the World War-II Germany was divided in East and West Germany. The line went through Berlin. One side was socialism and other side Democracy/Capitalism. This in turn gave Berlinale a political air it carries. T hey desire to be the new leader of the free thinkers and those are the kind of filmmakers they want to give a platform to. So if you are making a fairy-tale however good it is, you are likely to not get selected on the other hand if your film is dealing with issues that impact the world; feminism, fascism, racism, dictatorship, freedom of speech, female infanticide, homelessness, child abuse basically any revolutionary idea chances are you will be considered and along with that if it’s sexy edgy and aggressive your chances go up.
It is really important for the Berlinale for your film to be either a world premiere or an international premiere. Now let us discuss about how. There are two ways—one blind entry that is when you send your movie through without a box or freeway and second is done by selection committee itself.
Dorothy assured us that they watch every movie that is submitted. Some in the group were less convinced than other about that. In her defence she did say they do not watch the entire movie. If it does not intrigue them in the first 30 minutes they stop watching. Let’s assume it’s closer to 15 minutes than, so the first 5 minutes of the movie are extremely crucial. Second member of selection committee scouts for movies round the year, In our case that’s Dorothy. The entire group agreed that most of the films that get selected are through this rout which means she comes to India, watches movies. She keeps in touch with people who have attended the festivals which also means that she already has connection with these people. In other words they have been networking with her. There have been instances where films get selected even before they are completed. Now, let’s not get disappointed, networking doesn’t always mean going to parties and having drinks with them or being their best friend. Sometime it’s as simple as getting in touch over email and keeping them posted about your project at various stages. Another name that came up for Indian selection process is Meenakshi Shinde.
If you feel intimidated doing all this by yourself, there is another way— festival agents. We have few good ones in India, however, you can also find yourself international agent. Do not waste your money on blind submissions— if you are going to get representation get it at an earlier stage, do not wait for the film to be over. The best is to keep in touch with Berlinale because all the informatin that you need is available on their website. There is more than one way for your movie to be shown in the Berlinale but that in the next post.