Given the international aspect of the festival, it is hardly surprising that different countries have parties to celebrate and acknowledge the filmmakers of each nation. Thus, the Romanians have a party, as do the British, the Serbians, and of course the Israelis. The Israeli affair, incidentally, was a very classy one, help on the upstairs floor of a swanky restaurant in the Sony Center (Potsdamer Platz’s answer to the Millennium dome, but a little more practical). One might assume the American’s would follow suit, right? Think again.
When I first arrived in Berlin and picked up my accreditation, I received an invitation to a private reception at the American Embassy. I have been to embassy affairs before and they are always very sophisticated, so it seemed appropriate that the US Embassy, recently moved into spanking new headquarters near the Brandenburg Gate, should serve up an evening to remember.
A private bus arrived at the HAU 1 (the Hebbel Am Ufer Theatre, and one of the locations for the Talent Campus events) and picked up about 6 American “talents”, including myself. Expectations were high as we disembarked outside the famous Adlon hotel and were then escorted the final block to the embassy.
Arriving at the austere fortress, we were then subject to x-rays, metal detectors and the like, then escorted into a drab little room set up for some sort of news conference. For the next two hours we became the captive audience of the Chargé d’Affaires and the Cultural Attaché, who proceeded to pontificate, on camera, about their experiences living in Berlin during the Cold War. What exactly did this have to do with the Berlinale?
I don’t know if you have ever encountered Foreign Service people, but they are a strange bunch indeed. Alienated from their homeland by having lived abroad for so long, they are also completely out of touch with the local scene, living as they do in the embassy. What you wind up with is someone who speaks and acts like something out of a US propaganda video. And that was precisely what we were asked, nay forced, to participate in.
To add insult to injury, the “reception” was merely a table consisting of some Coke, coffee, peanut butter Oreo cookies and, I kid you not, Ho-Hos. Ho-Hos are a cakey chocolate thing along the lines of a Twinkie and equally as “all-American”.
So where was the booze, the acknowledgement, the celebration of our filmmaking prowess and talent? I had to head over to the British party later than night for some of that.