It’s that time of the year again: From February 11 to 21, Arsenal is putting on the 46h Berlinale Forum as well as the 11th edition of Forum Expanded as part of the Berlin International Film Festival. The Forum will show a total of 44 films in its main programme, of which 34 are world premieres and nine international premieres. Civil wars, forced migration and the repercussions of exploitative working conditions are worldwide issues that find their way into the programme. One regional focus this year is the Arab region. Films shot by often young directors from an area that stretches between Egypt and Saudi Arabia explore both the past and present of their homelands.
As in previous years the Forum completes its programme with a series of Special Screenings that run the gamut between a monumental travelogue, newly unearthed film historical gems and works that grapple with both cinema and its history. Artist Ulrike Ottinger embarked on a journey from Alaska via Chukchi to Kamchatka on the trail of Adelbert von Chamisso, James Cook and other early world explorers. Like her predecessors, she kept a log book that bears the mark of her ethnographic and artistic interests, which also appear in images. Ottinger’s twelve-hour film CHAMISSOS SCHATTEN (CHAMISSO’S SHADOW) opens this year’s Forum with a mammoth screening at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele on February 12.
Under the title "Hachimiri Madness – Japanese Indies from the Punk Years", the Forum is showing a series of newly digitised and subtitled Japanese 8-mm films from 1977 to 1990 which breathe the rebellious spirit of that era. Many of the highest profile directors Japan has to offer today made their debut features in this format – very few of them have ever been shown internationally.
49 artistic works have been invited to this year’s Forum Expanded, including 32 films of different lengths, 15 installations, one lecture performance and a reading. The exhibition at the Akademie der Künste on Hanseatenweg will open on February 10 already, one day before the Berlinale gets underway. The premiere screenings of the film programmes will take place in the auditorium of the same location and will be followed by comprehensive discussions. The central thread here is this year’s theme of "Traversing the Phantasm", which art theorist Helmut Draxler will introduce in a keynote lecture. In reference to theoretician Jacques Lacan, the concept of the phantasm is reflected in numerous ways in this year’s programme – as collective fantasies or (geo-)political realities of various different manifestations.
The silent green Kulturquartier has housed our analogue film archive since November 2015. The site (525 m2) also boasts viewing stations with editing suites and monitors. The official opening will take place this coming April.
Many of the films have been acquired over 45 Forum years. Since the Berlinale section was created in 1971, prints have been bought and some have been subtitled. The original idea was to ensure that the films would also be available to the public after the festival. From today's perspective, it was an unintended masterstroke of conservation. Films from many countries survived at Arsenal. Many were forgotten; others were ahead of their time and their significance is only now being discovered. Our archive thus opens up a new, very special film landscape: Each film can be seen as an attempt at the aesthetics of cinema, and considered as social and political contemporary practice with a view to the future. This moment of utopia is perhaps the key to a lively archive.
To make clear the contemporary nature of the collection, the Forum and Forum Expanded sections of the Berlinale are compiling a "reference list" of titles that have a connection to this year's program: Earlier films by guests or films whose memory is directly or indirectly reflected in new films. The films on this list, which will be published on our homepage, can be viewed at stations in the silent green Kulturquartier under specialist supervision.