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04 October 2023

60 years for Berlin film fest


The Berlin Film Festival, now in its 60th year, was a child of the Cold War, a propaganda tool of the Allies, and a frequent political battleground that reached far beyond the cinema doors.

The anniversary has given the Berlinale, as the event is known, a chance to look back at the scandals and controversy that established the event as Europe's most politically charged cinema showcase.

"The festival was founded as the Cold War was raging," the current chief of the festival, Dieter Kosslick, said this month.

"Berlin had been reduced to rubble and ashes but was a powerful symbol for the West."

When the Berlinale was first held in 1951, some two million West Germans were unemployed and tens of thousands of homeless Berliners still lived in makeshift camps, according to the new book, The Berlinale - The Festival by film historian Peter Cowie.

US officials saw an international film festival as an opportunity to indoctrinate Germans, with still-fresh memories of the Nazis and their powerful propaganda machine, and create a "showcase for the free world".

In the early years, 500 festival posters were hung in West Berlin so they could be seen in the East, Cowie said. The world powers used the Berlinale to score diplomatic points over events happening half a world away.


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