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By Michael Kutza, Founder and Artistic Director

If you are a real film fanatic, you should put the Berlin Film Festival on your radar for next year and consider a trip to Germany!  Berlin is truly an audience-friendly film festival. It’s said to be the best attended festival in the world, with over 300,000 admissions! It is a city festival utilizing over 40 screens in many neighborhoods at the same time. Berlin is the first major European festival of the year, an “A” festival second only to the Cannes Film Festival in May in importance.  We send a programming team annually to scout new and upcoming films for Chicago’s Festival in October. So what was this year like?

The festival is separated into many distinct sections: The main International Competition, German films in focus, World Cinema (Panorama), a major historic film retrospective devoted to early Russian Cinema, documentaries, independent/experimental films (Forum) and the European Film Market, a place to buy and sell new film productions….add to that mix a sprinkling of Hollywood films that are about to open and you have the Berlin line-up. The festival’s position in mid-February offers it the Oscar stars that are on tour doing advance European promotions. So, Brad and Angelina, George, Leonardo and Meryl were all around for red carpets and special awards.  The main film competition selection tends to be strictly international and focuses on presenting the latest efforts of directors who have won Berlin in years past.  First feature films often head to the famed Panorama section, which also features a focus on GLBT films from around the world, with its own GLBT awards called the Teddy Bears!

This year’s Berlin festival offered themes both stunning and disturbing. Kidnapping, terrorism, doomed love affairs, sex addiction, a 3D Chinese flying-daggers-style epic, a transgendered prostitute’s revolution, and the innocence of a child left behind to survive are some of the more memorable ones. The best of the lot featured actual convicted Italian prisoners performing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar! Cesar Must Die is a brilliant film and the winner of the 2012 Golden Bear, the top prize at the Festival.

On the lighter and truly surreal side, the hottest ticket at the festival was Iron Sky, a sci-fi Star Wars-type comedy about Nazi survivors living on the moon, biding their time before they invade, conquer and destroy the world…only problem is that they still have 1945 technology! Set in 2018 when Sarah Palin is President, it is truly epic, but could have been funnier.

Typically our Chicago team and international advisors each see 4-5 feature films a day (yes that is possible) and we sift through the newest and even yet-to-be-finished films to bring what we feel is the cutting edge of film production to our selection committee back in Chicago for consideration for the October 48th Chicago International Film Festival, October 11-25, 2012.