I am at a loss for words. This is not particularly helpful when you are writing about your experiences, but I’m afraid it’s true. I simply cannot put into words what it felt like to screen my film in Berlin. What you are therefore about to read is a paltry attempt to convey what the day was like.
Despite a night of relatively heavy partying (I was one of the last people to leave the Generation party) I was up early. I brought a plate of food back to my room but couldn’t eat anything. When I’m nervous or stressed, the first thing to go is my appetite, and I realize that I have eaten virtually nothing since I arrived.
After forcing some yoghurt down, I joined the filmmakers of another film in my section as we waited to be picked up. Our ride was late, because apparently the Israeli Prime Minister is in town and traffic was badly disrupted. It made me realize that I have no idea what’s going on in the world, and have been completely cut off from any sources of news. I’m normally a news junky, but not this week by any means.
We arrived at the Zoo Palast about half an hour before the screening, and from the moment I stepped into the foyer I could feel the energy in the room. All around me were hundreds of children, full of beans and totally excited to be there. They were arriving in droves, pouring in through the doors and filling the lobby with a mass of excitement that stood no more than 4 feet high. By comparison I felt like a giant, towering over everyone.
When the doors to the theatre finally opened, everybody made a mad dash up the stairs leading to the auditorium. To have so many kids clamoring, screaming, and desperate to get into the theatre was a rare sight and a total thrill.
Walking in for my screening I was floored by the fact that the theatre was full to capacity. This is no small feat, given that the Zoo Palast has over 1,000 seats. I have this image seared into my memory of scanning the room and seeing every seat occupied by a small person. I’m sure there were adults there somewhere, but the overwhelming impression was of all the children.
Ok, at this point I’m having trouble writing about what happened next. Specifically, describing what was a purely emotional experience. I had been very nervous leading up to the screening, and as usual was worried about a bunch of technical nonsense. Will the film actually play? Will there be sound? Will it be the correct aspect ratio? As soon as I see the first frame of the film, see it in focus, and hear the sound, I relax. I also stop watching the film, and turn my attention to the audience. Mainly, I’m listening. And sitting in the Zoo Palast for the premiere of my film, what I heard was 1,000 children gasping, screaming, cheering, and laughing simultaneously in response to something I made. There is nothing I can compare this to, nothing more magical, simply nothing like it.
I was anticipating the Q&A session after the film, which was a treat, but what I wasn’t expecting was being asked to sign autographs. After concluding the Q&A we returned to the lobby where the kids could come up and have us sign their tickets, programs, and various other bits of paper. The language barrier made it difficult to have any kind of conversation, although one little girl that came up turned out to be Israeli, so at least I got to talk to someone.
The rest of the day floated by, and I was carried through it by a profound sensation of accomplishment, pride, and gratitude. And best of all, my appetite finally returned.