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Berlin International Film Festival facts for kids

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Berlin International Film Festival
Berlin International Film Festival logo.svg
Location Berlin, Germany
Founded 1951; 72 years ago (1951)
Most recent 2023, 73rd edition
Awards Golden Bear, Silver Bear
Artistic director Carlo Chatrian
No. of films 441 (945 screenings) in 2014

The Berlin International Film Festival (German: Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin), usually called the Berlinale, is a major international film festival held annually in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1951 and originally run in June, the festival has been held every February since 1978 and is one of the "Big Three" alongside the Venice Film Festival in Italy and the Cannes Film Festival in France. Tens of thousands of visitors attend each year.

About 400 films are shown at multiple venues across Berlin, mostly in and around Potsdamer Platz. They are screened in nine sections across cinematic genres, with around twenty films competing for the festival's top awards in the Competition section. The major awards, called the Golden Bear and Silver Bears, are decided on by the international jury, chaired by an internationally recognisable cinema personality. This jury and other specialised Berlinale juries also give many other awards, and in addition there are other awards given by independent juries and organisations.


Delphi Filmpalast

First festival

During the peak of the Cold War in 1950, Oscar Martay, a film officer of the Information Service Branch of the American High Commissioner for Germany stationed in Berlin, proposed the idea of a film festival in Berlin. The proposal was put through a committee, which included members of the Senate of Berlin and people from the German film industry, on 9 October 1950. Through his efforts and influence, the American military administration was persuaded to assist and to give loans for the first years of the Berlin International Film Festival, which commenced in June 1951. Film historian Dr. Alfred Bauer was the festival's first director, a position he would hold until 1976.

Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca opened the first festival at the Titania-Palast in Steglitz on 6 June 1951. The festival ran from 6 to 17 June, with Waldbühne being another festival venue.

The winners of the inaugural awards in 1951 were determined by a West German panel, and there were five winners of the Golden Bear, divided by categories and genres. Cinderella, which won the Golden Bear for a Music Film, also won the audience award.

Early years and awards

Between 1952 and 1955, the winners of the Golden Bear were determined by the audience members. In 1956, FIAPF formally accredited the festival and since then the Golden Bear has been awarded by an international jury.

During the Cold War, a selection of the films were also screened in East Berlin. The Berlin Wall did not go up until 1961.

In 1957, the Zoo Palast became the main venue for the festival, and remained so until the move to Potsdamer Platz in 2000.

21st century

Werner Herzog Bruxelles 01 cropped
Werner Herzog, 2010 jury president

In 2010, the city of Berlin unveiled its Boulevard der Stars, with the first of 40 stars devoted to actors and filmmakers of the German-speaking film and TV industry. First to be honoured in the Boulevard was German-American actress Marlene Dietrich.

A shortened 71st festival took place virtually in March 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Description and governance

The Berlinale is considered one of the three major film festivals in the world, alongside the Venice and Cannes, often ranked as second after Cannes, and is the largest based on attendance. As of 2020, around 325,000 tickets were sold, and nearly 16,000 film industry professionals from 130 countries attended the festival. It is held in Berlin. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. For the 2022 event, still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, 156,472 tickets were sold.

About 400 films are shown in several sections across cinematic genres, with around twenty films competing for the festival's top awards, the Golden Bear and Silver Bears.

In 2022, festival was receiving €10.3 million from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. There was consideration given by the federal government to help compensate for revenue lost and additional expenditure owing to the pandemic, with funds drawn from the Neustart Kultur programme.

Since 2019, Mariette Rissenbeek has been the festival's executive director; Carlo Chatrian is its artistic director.


The festival is open to films of every length and genre, but there is priority given to international and European premieres, and the films need to have been completed within the year preceding the festival. Submissions open in September of the preceding year.


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A Golden Bear statue
Silverbjörnen - Filmfestivalen i Berlin
The Silver Bear statue
Jafar Panahi (Berlin Film Festival 2006) revised
Jafar Panahi with Silver Bear, 2006

The Golden Bear (Goldener Bär) is the highest prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin International Film Festival. In its first year in 1951, it was awarded to the best film in each of five categories, by an all-German jury.

From 1952 to 1955 the Golden and Silver Bears were awarded by audience voting, as the FIAPF had determined after the first festival that only Cannes and Venice Film Festivals were allowed to appoint official juries. A Silver Bear (Silberner Bär) and a Bronze Berlin Bear, determined by audience vote, were also awarded from 1952 to 1955. After the FIAPF ruled to allow it, an official international jury determined the prizes from 1956 onwards, and in the same year a second Golden Bear was added, for best short film, as well as a second category of award, the Silver Bear, for individual achievements in acting or directing. In 1965, a runner-up prize to the Golden Bear was added.

The statuettes awarded as trophies are based on the Bär first created by sculptor Renée Sintenis (1888–1965) in 1932. The bear, based on the coat of arms of Berlin and depicting a bear standing on its hind legs with its arms raised, became popular in the 1930s, bringing wealth to Sintenis. Since the 3rd edition of the festival in 1953, replicas of the bear have been produced by the Noack Foundry.

As of 2022 the Golden Bear for Best Film is awarded to the producers of the best feature film.

As of 2022 the categories of Silver Bear awards are:

  • Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
  • Silver Bear Jury Prize
  • Silver Bear for Best Short Film
  • Silver Bear for Best Director
  • Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance
  • Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance
  • Silver Bear for Best Screenplay
  • Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution

Other Berlinale awards

The Honorary Golden Bear has been awarded for lifetime achievement since 1982. It is presented to someone with an exceptional artistic career, and is given to the guest of honour of the Homage section which has been run since 1977 by the Berlinale and the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.

Awards for short films are awarded by a separate international short film jury consisting of three filmmakers and artists. As of 2022 the short film award are:

  • Golden Bear for Best Short Film (since 1956)
  • Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film)
  • Berlin Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards

There are also awards given by separate juries or via other routes at the Berlinale. These include:

  • The Berlinale Camera has been awarded since 1986, with the trophy modelled on a real camera, made with 128 parts, some movable. It is awarded to "personalities and institutions that have made a unique contribution to film", as a way for the festival to express its thanks to friends and supporters of the festival. Past winners include Isabella Rossellini, Michael Ballhaus, Claude Chabrol, Jodie Foster, Otto Sander, Karlheinz Böhm, Clint Eastwood, Gina Lollobrigida, Sydney Pollack, and Curt Siodmak.
  • Crystal Bears (Gläserner Bär), Grand Prix and special prizes are awarded in the Generation section (grouped separately into Generation Kplus and Generation 14plus)
  • GWFF Best First Feature Award (since 2006), worth 50,000 Euros, is funded by Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film- und Fernsehrechten.
  • Three prizes are awarded in the Encounters section (since 2020).
  • Berlinale Documentary Award (since 2017), worth 40,000 Euros, sponsored by public broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb), with entries from the Competition, Encounters, Panorama, Forum, Generation, Berlinale Special and Perspektive Deutsches Kino sections.
  • Berlinale Series Award, established in 2023, is given to the winning series. The first award was won by the Italian series The Good Mothers by Julian Jarrold and Elisa Amoruso.
  • Panorama Audience Award, established in 1999
  • Compass-Perspektive-Award, for the best film in the current Perspektive Deutsches Kino program
  • Readers' awards, one each by Berliner Morgenpost and Tagesspiegel, and the Teddy Readers' Award
  • Several development awards


Cubix Kino at Alexanderplatz
Friedrichstadtpalast at night 01
Kino International

The Theater am Potsdamer Platz, a theatre for musicals which is known as the Berlinale Palast during the festival, is the venue for the premieres of Competition film and several Special Gala films, as well as the opening and awards ceremonies.

The CinemaxX Potsdamer Platz, which has 19 screens, has been the main Berlinale screening cinema since 2000, two years after its opening in 1998.

World Cinema Fund

The World Cinema Fund (WCF) is associated with the Berlinale, and was established to provide financial support to feature film projects in countries with a weak film industry infrastructure. It was established by Dieter Kosslick in 2004. It awards several projects in various stages of production with funding each year.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Festival Internacional de Cine de Berlín para niños

  • German Cinema
  • Cinema of Europe
  • List of films set in Berlin
  • World cinema
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