That cold and inclement time of year when the wind howls around the tower blocks at Potsdamer Platz - that's Berlinale time! Each February, the international elite of the movie scene descends on the German capital in the hunt for the Golden Bear. A total of 434 films will be screened at the 66th Berlinale, which runs from February 11th. Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick promises: "We'll have stars like George Clooney, Jude Law, Isabelle Huppert, Channing Tatum, Colin Firth, Kirsten Dunst, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore and many more to get people off their couches and into the cinema." Even the jury is star-studded and this year is chaired by Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, who garnered international critical acclaim for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in ‘The Iron Lady'. Berlin-born actor Lars Eidinger is bound to be able to tell the American star which restaurants are worth a visit and where to find the best nightspots in town. The native Berliner is also on the jury this time round. A Berlinale veteran, Eidinger has already participated in the competition on several occasions, with films like ‘Alle anderen' (‘Everyone Else') or ‘Was bleibt' (‘Home for the Weekend').
Anyone hoping for a glimpse of the stars would be well advised to spend some time at Potsdamer Platz, home to the movie theater designated as the ‘Berlinale Palace' and, together with other nearby cinemas, the venue for innumerable premieres during Berlinale week. Not only is the nearby Hotel Hyatt the location of countless press conferences, it's also the place several film stars call home during their stay. Berlin's fanciest addresses - the Adlon, the Ritz Carlton, the Regent, Hotel de Rome or Soho House also boast Hollywood residents. Regulars at the Soho House, an exclusive members club, include George Clooney, and the likes of Matt Damon and Madonna have also been spotted here. Clooney, an avid Berlinale fan, stars in this year's opening film ‘Hail, Caesar!' and is expected to make a red-carpet appearance alongside the film's directors, the Coen brothers. In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung he said, "I was invited to the Berlinale with my debut work as a director, 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind'. It's great to be a part of it, because people here love cinema and really know their stuff." Colleague Matt Damon also has nothing but praise for Berlin. "It's such a cool city. I love Berlin. 'Bourne' was filmed here. This time round, I had a suite at the Soho House. With a kitchen! My kids came to visit me. There was lots of snow. It was freezing. It's always fun with George", he told the Bild Zeitung.
With so many celebrities in town, it should come as no surprise if the guest at the next table seems somehow familiar. The classic destination for post-Berlinale refreshment is Borchardt's. The signature dish here is Schnitzel, and in the evening, guests can enjoy a party at the private club on the second floor above the restaurant - by invitation only, of course. Fans of fine Italian cuisine should visit Bocca di Bacco on Friedrichstraße, where Tom Hanks and Demi Moore have already sampled the exclusive menu. Meanwhile, vegetarians are sure to find the perfect dish at Cookies Cream, which serves regional, meat-free creations. Carnivores will be well-served at Grill Royal, which sources its steaks - enjoyed by the likes of Liam Neeson, Scarlett Johansson und Samuel L. Jackson - from Kobe, Japan and from the Schorfheide biosphere reserve located in nearby Brandenburg. This restaurant overlooking the River Spree is a real hot-spot for the film and arts scene and is almost always fully-booked during Berlinale season. Bar Tausend, located under the railway arches by Friedrichstraße is the ideal place for a post-dinner drink. The in-house restaurant, ‘Backroom Cantina', serves hungry partygoers German cuisine with an Asian twist.
It doesn't always have to be Berlin Mitte. West Berlin also puts on its best face for the Berlinale. For the last two years, the 'Zoo Palast' cinema has again been one of the film festival venues and has always been one of the favorite locations of Berlinale director, Dieter Kosslick. With its 1,650 seats, most of them leather, it is the epitome of modern cinema, yet looks back on a long history: movies were already being shown here over a century ago. From 1957 to 1999, Zoo Palast was the main competition theater for the Berlinale festival.
The Paris Bar on Kantstraße is the meeting place for actors, directors and celebrities, and not just during Berlinale. Katie Holmes is just one of the stars to have enjoyed the art-covered walls in the past, immediately recording the event with a post on her Instagram feed.
However, aside from all the big names, the best thing about the Berlinale is that this really is a film festival for everyone. Anyone who gets tickets in time has a good chance of being able to visit a Berlinale screening, perhaps even in the presence of the director or lead actor.
Photos and photo credits:
Title: The Berlinale bear at the Sony-Center, Potsdamer Platz (photo: © Berlinale)
01 Berlinale Palast (photo: Dirk Michael Deckbar © Berlinale 2005)
02 Restaurant Bocca di Bacco
03 Zoo Palast (photo: © Jan Bitter)