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Carlo Chatrian’s resignation. The end of an Era at Berlinale.

todaySeptember 18, 2023

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The Berlinale's Dual Management System Dissolves, Prompting Resignation of Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian.

“For the past four years at the Berlinale, I have been fortunate enough to work along with extraordinary people, as in love with movies as I am, who are totally dedicated to revitalising one of the world’s great film festivals. Together we have helped so many talents and great stories reach out to the world. And I am grateful to all the people who have supported and believed in me.

I thought that continuity could be facilitated if I remained part of the festival, but, in the new structure as it has been presented, it is quite clear that the conditions for me to continue as Artistic Director no longer exist. The next edition of the festival will be therefore the end of this rewarding journey.”

With these words, Carlo Chatrian, the esteemed Artistic Director of the Berlin International Film Festival, commonly known as Berlinale, has announced his decision to step down from his role following the 2024 edition of the festival. This news comes as a consequence of significant structural changes within the festival’s management system, signalling a major turning point in the history of one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals.

A Dual Management Structure Unravels

The catalyst behind Chatrian‘s departure lies in the German Ministry for Culture and Media’s decision to abolish Berlinale‘s dual management structure. This innovative structure, which included Mariette Rissenbeek as the Executive Director and Carlo Chatrian as the Artistic Director, had been in place since June 2019, representing a departure from the festival’s previous single-director model, which Dieter Kosslick headed for nearly two decades.

Chatrian and Rissenbeek took the helm at a pivotal moment in the festival’s history. Their joint management coincided with the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with that edition becoming the last major film festival with a full-blown market and physical attendance to take place that year. Subsequently, they adeptly managed an online edition in 2021 and a hybrid edition in 2022, wherein a scaled-down physical festival took place while the market was conducted online.

Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian at the Press Conference of Berlinale 2023
Mariëtte Rissenbeek, Carlo Chatrian | Programme press conference
© Richard Hübner / Berlinale 2023

A Vision for the Future

Last month, German Culture Minister Claudia Roth announced her vision to return the Berlinale to the hands of a single director, emphasizing the need for unified leadership to modernize and secure the festival’s future. Roth stated, “The necessary decisions to modernize the Berlinale, to secure its future and sustainability should now be in one hand again in order to further develop the Berlinale as a public festival in the federal capital and to strengthen it in the league of international A film festivals.”

This move has generated both support and scepticism within the global film community. Supporters argue that a single-director model can provide a clearer vision and streamline decision-making. On the other hand, critics express concerns about the potential loss of diversity and creative input that a dual management structure allowed.

A Plea for Continuity

An open letter, signed by nearly 300 prominent figures from the international film industry, voiced support for Carlo Chatrian’s continued leadership at Berlinale. Signatories included renowned directors such as Martin Scorsese, Joanna Hogg, Paul Schrader, Tilda Swinton, and M. Night Shyamalan, among many others. The letter praised Chatrian‘s quiet yet effective leadership, highlighting his ability to guide the festival through unprecedented challenges, including the pandemic.

The letter stated, “Carlo Chatrian may not be a showman, but in his quiet ways, he and his team have chosen an open and artistically rewarding curatorial path, showing new directions in world cinema, challenging stereotypes, and connecting different strands of filmmaking.” It also commended the festival’s resilience under his guidance and the critical acclaim received by films awarded during his tenure.

Carlo ChatrianWho wants? The Artistic Director during Q&A. Unrueh · Encounters · Feb 14, 2022
Carlo Chatrian

The Road Ahead

With Chatrian‘s impending departure, the festival faces the task of appointing a successor who can carry forward his legacy. An intriguing development is forming a six-person selection committee chaired by Claudia Roth. This committee includes industry professionals like Oscar-winning director Edward Berger, Anne Leppin of the German Film Academy, actress-producer-screenwriter Sara Fazilat, veteran producer Roman Paul, and Florian Graf, head of Berlin’s Senate Chancellery.

The decision to disband the dual management structure and the subsequent resignation of Chatrian and Rissenbeek have stirred discussions within the film community. Supporters argue that the minister’s decision could disrupt the festival’s momentum and question the lack of a clear vision for Berlinale’s future.

As Berlinale prepares for its 2024 edition, which is scheduled to run from February 15 to 25, all eyes are on the festival’s next steps. The global film community remains engaged, eager to witness the unfolding of this pivotal transition and the appointment of a new artistic director who will continue the festival’s tradition of celebrating exceptional cinema worldwide.

With its rich history and influence on the international film scene, Berlinale stands at a crossroads, and the choices made in the coming months will shape its future. Carlo Chatrian‘s contributions to the festival will undoubtedly be remembered as an integral part of its legacy, and his departure marks the end of a rewarding journey for both him and Berlinale. The festival now faces the challenge of embracing change while preserving its commitment to excellence in cinema.

Written by: Federica Scarpa




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