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"Faces of the Berlinale" : These are the people who make the film festival what it is

What would the Berlinale be without film fans, without cinema employees, Berlinale team, celebrities and professionals from the film business? From February 20th to March 1st we will publish small minutes here.

Janwillem van der Sande, team leader at the Berlinale Palast

This is my fifth time at the Berlinale. Before that, I worked at the reception at the State Opera until my employer asked me in 2016 whether I wanted to switch to the Berlinale. After the second beer at the Christmas party, I finally agreed: Exactly the right decision!

We are a huge team with 70 employees here at the Berlinale Palast. As a team leader, you have to make sure that everyone knows what to do. In the early years in particular, it was very stressful to organize everything and keep track of things. After that, I usually needed a week's vacation to compensate.

The audience here is very mixed. There are people who only go to the cinema once a year, but also some guests who really come for every film and always report on what is going on outside in the queue. We have three premieres here a day. So they manage to buy tickets every time or to get hold of some on the street. And although they have been doing this for years, they are totally excited every time. They are walking around inside and want to tell everyone that they made it again. You can also enjoy watching.

Some guests do not understand when they are asked about their tickets in the building. They not only need them outside at the entrance, but also when they enter the hall. Some people simply refuse to show their cards even though they have it in their pocket. Most of them are incredibly friendly. We enable them to participate in something that they are very much looking forward to. There are even guests who give us chocolate because they see us there every day and know what hard work it is.

June Galgey, VIP supervisor

June Galgey has been omnipresent at the film festival for about 35 years. The Berlinale VIP supervisor takes care of big stars from arrival at the airport to departure. It fulfills wishes and paves the way for them. In the limousine on the way to the hotel, she tells them something about the city and special sights. She takes care of the schedule, which is often much too tight, and makes sure that it is processed as punctually as possible. She only sees films if the stars have not yet seen the work themselves and stay in the cinema during the performance.

Otherwise, she makes sure that the meal in the restaurant does not last too long so that the main actors can present themselves to the audience at the closing curtain. Even if she secretly admires a star, it can't have any effect on her work. “You have to be able to tell people what needs to be done.” If a big star wants to stay a little longer at an event, she still intervenes when the next appointment calls.

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On Wednesday she accompanied Helen Mirren and was thrilled by her warm-hearted way of taking time to answer questions during interviews. “She's great, very friendly and funny.” Mirren is an old friend. June Galgey first looked after her at the Berlinale in the mid-1980s. It goes without saying that in such a long time you know the processes by heart. She is usually present at the opening reception as well as at the bear winner's party.

Sometimes she even has to bring her stars to the cinema through the back door if they want to see a film spontaneously and don't want to steal the show from the current leading actors when they appear on the red carpet. The native South African, who speaks English, French and German as well as Afrikaans and Dutch, originally worked as a tour guide in London, also for VIPs.

When her husband moved to Berlin for professional reasons, she followed him and signed on to the Berlinale. Now 75 years old, she has long been living in England again, but every February she comes back to Berlin. Galgey repeatedly emphasizes that she has a lot of great colleagues and raves about the good guest management of the festival. “The VIP attendants come from all over the world,” she says. “And from all professions. We have a dentist, an architect and also a lawyer. ”When it comes to hiring, a lot revolves around language skills. If a Korean team is being supervised, the VIP supervisor is most likely a native speaker from South Korea. The Asian department at the guest supervisors is quite large.

June Galgey not only has knowledge of the city, but also empathy. “You have to like people, that's a very important requirement for the job,” says Galgey. For example, she makes sure that her stars cut a fine figure on the red carpet without restrictions. When bodyguards are there and block your view, it's up to you to say that and change it. After all, the fans shouldn't be neglected.

This year Galgey was already responsible for Sigourney Weaver and accompanied Cate Blanchett to an appointment. If someone comes under their wing who doesn't have a big name yet, they will be treated just as well as a Hollywood icon. When dealing with the protégés, she does not want to show her personal preferences. But she still fondly remembers Billy Wilder because he told her so many anecdotes from his youth in Berlin.

Jens Winter, opponent

As an opponent at the Berlinale, my task at the Berlinale is to speak live in German at the same time as the films, which are mostly world premieres or European premieres and always run in the original language. That means, I sit in the back of the cinema and speak all the dialogues from all the characters. The films in the “Generation” section in particular are made for very young people, but most of the time they cannot read and understand the English subtitles so quickly, which is still too difficult for them. That is why we are here - the opponents.

I've been working at the Berlinale for 20 years now - and I'm still excited. Before every premiere, I regularly break out in sweats. The situation is wonderful for me when the time has finally come and I can experience the film live - with all the children in the cinema. You are an insanely lively audience. School classes often come too, mostly in the morning performances.

Then 700, 800 children sit there and really go along. I get goose bumps. We in the “Generation” section would like to show the children films that tell about their own fate. Even a film that is set in Mexico, for example, has a lot to do with the résumés of children here in Berlin. We would like to bring this closer to the children. That and of course other languages, cultures, customs and traditions, which are still very close to the children because they have very different nationalities in their school classes. Through the Berlinale, you can feel and experience all of this.

My work process is such that I see the film three or four weeks before the premiere and then either write the translation myself, for English films, or have it presented. From this I work out my own score. I shorten and look for exactly the passages that are important to speak.

The main work is to watch the movie sentence by sentence and then decide when to start speaking and when to stop. To do this, I have to feel my way into the soundtrack, the voices and the noises of the film. In preparation, I will see the film ten or fifteen times in small pieces and then there are two or three times in which I go through the whole film without stopping, so that afterwards the whole thing really becomes one with the original soundtrack. This fine tuning is very important to me so that the long work of the filmmakers remains in the foreground.

It was a big challenge for me to suddenly have to translate a Turkish film live and simultaneously only from the English subtitles. The film was completely changed over again the night before the premiere, and new scenes were even incorporated that I didn't know.

I had to put my script aside - a nightmare - and make the most of it. Fortunately, that worked out quite well and nobody noticed. By the way, this year my little daughter will see her first Berlinale film and can see her dad translate live, which I am really looking forward to.

Jella Haase, Berlin actress

When I heard Johnny Depp was in town, I freaked out. I wanted to marry him when I was twelve. I didn't meet him, but it was fun to be excited about. For me, the Berlinale means great euphoria, but also great excitement.

Everything is crazy. This time I'm there with two films, “Kokon” and “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, that's totally exciting. The premiere of "Kokon" was on Friday and it was great. The film was warmly and intensely received, the people were so open and moved. The applause after the screening at the “Talent Screening” moved me to tears.

“Berlin Alexanderplatz” will be presented on Wednesday. So that my friends can come to the premiere, we all flocked to different box offices very early on Sunday. And everyone really got a ticket! The Berlinale is a public festival, and that's great, but you have to get up early to get tickets.

Many years ago, in 2004, I was at the Berlinale with my best friend - as a spectator. We saw “Die Spielwütigen”, a documentary about drama students. I was totally flashed. “I want to do something like that too!” I thought.

Of course, the Berlinale time is also exhausting. When you've taken the thousandth photo, it'll be enough at some point. The whole hustle and bustle is a bit overwhelming. To get through these ten days, a good tip is to put on comfortable shoes. The best thing to do, however, is to avoid drinking alcohol. Or less.

Lena Urzendowsky, Berlin actress

It still feels special to me to be at the Berlinale. My first visit was in 2011 when I was looking at "Anne Loves Phillipp" with a friend. Back then we didn't have a television at home and we usually went to the theater rather than the cinema.

Fortunately, my girlfriend took me to the festival back then. What an amazing atmosphere! I loved this movie so much. At that moment I knew: I would try everything to make films myself. I was only eleven years old at the time. Until then, I had played in various musicals.

In the past few years I have visited events at the Berlinale again and again. But now that it's my first time starring in a movie, I feel like I belong more. I feel more justified in going to the receptions, also because the film “Kokon” is very close to my heart and I like to talk about it. It is about a girl from Kreuzberg who discovers her first great love.

I shot the film right after graduating from high school and for the first time had time to fully engage myself in a project. Before that, there was still the school load on the side. I had a lot of fun filming because I could really try myself out and really enjoy working with the director Leonie Krippendorff.

"Kokon" runs in the "Generation 14 plus" competition. I am really happy that we are this year's opening film in the section. Funnily enough, the premiere takes place in the Urania, where I used to perform as a child actress. Now for the film premiere, I was super excited and full of anticipation. I experience the film as a kind of "trip" - not that I've ever had one.

For me, a film is always full of memories and associated with experiences from making it. That's why it's initially unreal to see yourself on the screen. I need a couple of years to see the films I've played in as a total work of art.

In addition to the receptions and events in the evening, I would like to watch as many films as possible at the Berlinale. Finally, I have an accreditation. I only have the morning for that. In between there is hardly any space left for a coffee. Then maybe I can sleep on the bench in front of the cinema.

Laura Widder, merchandise seller

If, like me, you sell merchandising products from the Berlinale at Potsdamer Platz, you learn: Berlin is like tailor-made overalls. Anyone can wear it. Regardless of whether you are male, female or diverse, it fits children and babies. At first glance, it is elegant, but also functional.

Because all kinds of people come here for the Berlinale: Berliners, people from South and North America, Africa. They all want to experience the festival and the city in their own way. You ask yourself: what do I want to see? Who do I take with me? Where do i want to go Then they go to the cinema, see films, meet actors and directors. And when they leave again, they still have the cinema in their heads. Everyone who comes here has a picture in mind of what they want to experience. Accordingly, they also shop.

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I have found that there are three groups of buyers: Some want something aesthetic that suits them and benefits them. A lot of young designers, copywriters and fashion journalists buy the blue notebook that we have here, for example. They then write or draw in the performances. They want the event to connect with them.

The second group shops with love: they may have a nephew at home or a child who was unable to come with you. They then buy the pacifier or the teddy bear. The third group stands for transparency: They want a T-shirt that says “70 years of the Berlinale”. I would say they want to show: I experienced the Berlinale.

The merino scarf is also very popular, on the one hand because many people arriving from abroad are surprised by the winter, and on the other hand, I believe, because they are looking for security in a foreign country. And of course you can also give it away as a gift. By the way, what doesn't work at all is the red car we're selling. I think because it doesn't really relate to cinema and the films. People want to establish a connection to the festival.

Knut Elstermann, film critic at Radio Eins

What I like about the Berlinale is the fact that I can be there. As an East Berliner, I always saw the festival on television and thought: Oh, the Zoo Palace! How great it looks there! You'd like to be there too.

In the years after the fall of the Wall, I became part of the whole myself. For many years I have been moderating for Radio Eins from the Berlinale. Of course there have been many changes over the decades.

When Dieter Kosslick stopped, it was a turning point. But I think it's good how cautious it is. The break is not as big as one might have guessed. Of course there are innovations and a different atmosphere than under Dieter Kosslick, who always exuded a special charm on the red carpet. Nevertheless, I see a lot of continuity in the film program.

What hasn't changed is the great audience. I go to Cannes every year, and now and then to Venice, but you won't find this kind of cinema-loving audience at the other big festivals. The Berlinale lives off of it.

For me, the coming days mean a lot of work first of all. At the Berlinale, I watch a total of three or four films a day. I watch the main competition in full. From the other sections like “Panorama” or “Forum” I mainly watch the films that appear on my show at 7pm.

We always have changing guest critics. For me, of course, it's a great privilege - you watch films all day and in the evening you get to know the actors and directors who created these works. This year, in addition to the radio program, I will also host the “Berlinale Studio” at the RBB for six days, a completely new challenge.

I definitely enjoy my work. I am and will always be a passionate movie viewer. If that wasn't the case, I'd have to look for something else.

At a major event like the Berlinale, I initially feel a mixture of joy and tension. I ask myself: can my team and I get through this? Does anyone get sick? Fortunately, it's not that cold anymore.

Petra Blömker, Berlinale administration employee

It's reasonably quiet where I work during the Berlinale. We have a lot to do before and after the festival, but now I can even go to the cinema in the evening. I work in administration. That means, I take care of personnel, finances, placing orders and everything else that arises.Before and after the festival, among other things, I process third-party funding applications, settle the income of the festival and take care of the personnel contracts.

In addition to the usual tasks, this year we had to plan as a team how the festival would deal with the coronavirus. This also includes getting posters on hand hygiene in the toilets of all venues. We then plan the needs, order the posters and arrange for them to be hung.

I am also the interface for the many colleagues who are not with us all year round. During the festival, a lot of people work for us who don't know the administrative framework under which we work very well: People who actually work artistically suddenly have to deal with account assignments and cost carriers or write invoices. I like to pass on my knowledge.

I've been working in cultural management for 20 years, and I've been at the Berlinale for almost seven years. Before that, I lived and worked in Belfast for a long time. I really enjoy working with people from all over the world.

A small personal highlight for me is to order the bears for the award ceremony and the honorary bear. In 2014 I held the bears in my hand for the first time. They were in caskets: the golden bear in a red one, the silver in a blue one. So that no fingerprints land on the bear, I had to wear white cloth gloves that the foundry supplied.

The first thing I noticed: They're pretty heavy. And they shine - they are freshly polished. We have a press bear who is in the office for photo shoots all year round. But it shines less. The prize bears, on the other hand, are wonderful, and it feels good to be involved in creating this trophy.

Steffen Tobolt, autograph hunter

I've always been passionate about movies and actors. In 2006 I saw a play with Julia Roberts in New York. Then she stood outside and signed autographs. Meeting someone I only knew from films - I was so excited about this feeling that I became an autograph collector.

In 2012 the Berlinale announced a number of very interesting artists: Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves. I took a vacation right away. At that time I was still living in Baden-Württemberg. I got in the car and drove to Berlin for six hours.

On February 14th, Valentine's Day, Meryl Streep was to receive the Honorary Golden Bear. I was standing in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where Meryl was giving a press conference. I've been waiting since eight o'clock and that day it was minus twelve degrees. And Mandy happened to be standing next to me.

If you wait ten hours next to each other, you either turn away from each other - or you just talk. Mandy told me that she had the movie "Mamma Mia!" I really liked it and was a big Meryl Streep fan because of it. Then I suggested singing the theme song as soon as Meryl comes out to get her attention. That worked too, and then we exchanged ideas on Facebook.

When I went home that evening, to be honest, I didn't really care about Meryl. When I saw Mandy and talked to her, it was clear to me in that second: I am absolutely delighted with her. For them, however, I was someone who lived six hours away in southern Germany. She told me that later. She was 18 at the time and had the Abitur in mind.

We stayed in touch via Facebook and chatted every day. At some point I wrote that I fell in love with her. At first she was flabbergasted, but had already told her cousin and best friend about me. And the two of them said: Mandy, you're in love with him. In May I was back in Berlin. We walked around town, went to the movies, and at the very end, when we broke up and she got on the subway, she kissed me.

After that we had a long-distance relationship over 600 kilometers. We were in Iceland in February 2018. It was Valentine's Day, six years after we met. In front of our hotel near Reykjavik we sat in the snow and looked into the darkness. We wanted to see the northern lights.

At first they didn't come and I thought it would all go bad. Then I asked her if she wanted to be my wife. And when she said "yes" the northern lights came out and shone as bright and green as they hadn't for three days. It was like a small miracle for me.

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