Berlinale International Film Festival: Top Tips for Attending

This blog post is written by Courtney Harmstone, a recent graduate of the MA International Film Business. Since graduating, Courtney has worked in freelance production on a variety of projects in London and across the U.K.  Courtney is currently assisting the University of Exeter as a Marketing Assistant and working on the development of two feature films.

Berlinale International Film Festival is one of the world’s largest and most respected film festivals and film markets.  The festival takes place in February, in Berlin, Germany, and attracts over 16,000 industry professionals from 122 countries. What is the difference between Berlinale and your local festival?  Berlinale is a film festival that hosts world premieres of feature films and is also the hub of business at the European Film Market.  The European Film Market, EFM, attracts exhibitors and professionals from across the globe, and is hosted in the Martin Gropius Bau building close to the festival hub of Potsdamer Platz.

Students on our MA International Film Business take a field trip to the Berlinale in the second term of the programme. This blog entry will discuss the dos and don’ts of Berlinale, and provides some top tips on how to navigate your way around a Class A film festival!  As an MAIFB alumna, and having also attended the festival twice, here are my tips!


  1. Accommodation and Travel around Berlin
  2. How to see Films at Berlinale
  3. Exploring the Martin Gropius Bau, European Film Market
  4. Networking 101
  5. The buddy system!
  6. Dress code
  7. Best way to get access: Never Say No to a Party
  8. What to Carry at all Times During Berlinale
  9. The Marriott or the Ritz: Fancy and Warm!
  10. Most importantly – how to relax!

 Accommodation and Travel:

Berlin is not a huge city, but it can be complicated if you have never been to Germany before this field trip.  When looking for a place to stay, try to secure a hotel room or Airbnb close to Potsdamer Platz.  This is the hub of the festival and you will not need to worry about transportation to the festival or classes during the field trip if you are close by.

Bear in mind, these hotels and Airbnbs are sought after and are often booked quickly.  Do not wait too long to book, or you may end up staying quite far away!

If you can’t afford or miss your chance to stay around Potsdamer, then try to stay close to the U Bahn – an extremely reliable and well maintained subway.  Purchase the metro pass for a week – it’s only 20 euros.  The U Bahn also runs 24 hours a day over the weekends!

On the U Bahn, unlike London, there are no barriers where you put your ticket through, and so it can be easy to forget to purchase a pass.  There are ticket booths as you enter every U Bahn and you can change the language easily.  Be warned: they will charge you 60 euros if you do not have a valid ticket, so do not forget to purchase one before boarding!


How to see films at Berlinale:

Berlinale is one the premiere festivals for a reason – the films screened go on to major success and critical acclaim, and the tickets are sought after.  During the festival, you will notice a few films that generate a lot of “buzz”. Keep an eye out in Screen International Daily to catch the top films from the day before.

Berlinale has a strict ticket policy. You need to be prepared, with a huge list of films, for when you attempt to purchase tickets.  You will most likely not get to see your top choice of films.  The challenge with ticketing is they are on sale three days for films in Berlinale and four days for competition.  You will need to queue three hours before the sale in the Arkaden (a shopping mall where you find the ticket booths).  Be prepared, be flexible and make a list of top priority films. If your top film is sold out, have a backup at the desk!


Exploring the Martin Gropius Bau, European Film Market:

The Martin Gropius Bau (MGB) building is a catacomb of industry professionals, from sales agents, to film commissioners promoting their tax incentives.  When you first arrive, is can be extremely overwhelming. It is a fury of activity, with people on their phones, ordering a quick coffee at the coffee stand, and rushing with huge folders to their next meetings.  The best thing to do is to take a step back and breathe.  You do not need to conquer the MGB in one day!

My advice?  Take a look at the floor map. Learn where the commissioners or sales agencies you are interested in are located and make your way through each room and check out their booths.  Moreover, if you find your home country commission, that can be the first step to meeting and networking with people at the festival.

Keep in mind, the first few days of the market are the busiest, so best to find the companies you want to approach and then wait until the Monday or Tuesday of the festival to approach the desk.

As students, it can be intimidating to approach the film commissioners – what do you say, how do you talk to them?

TOP TIP: when you approach the film commission, ask for information on their tax incentive programs or how they help independent producers in their country.  This opens up a discussion about what they can offer, and then you can drop in that you’re a student and want to learn more!

TOP TIP 2: If they’re rude about you being a student, don’t worry. Usually this is because the first few days of the festival are extremely busy.  If you want to speak to a stand, wait until Monday, when the business is mostly completed.


Networking 101:

The festival is extremely busy and most people attending will only be around for three days (the first weekend).  Don’t let this discourage you from approaching industry members, but also don’t be offended if they can’t meet.

TOP TIP: Ask them for their business card and ask if you can email them after the festival.  This not only shows you respect that they are extremely busy and working, but also when you do email, that you follow through.

TOP TIP 2: Order business cards for the festival.  Put your name, your phone number and email.  You don’t need to put a title, but if you want to have one, put “Filmmaker”. is a great resource for inexpensive business cards.


The Buddy System:

 Choosing one person to travel through the market with you not only gives you flexibility of movement, but also a safety net, if you feel nervous.  The best way to make connections is to be confident and speak to people.  If it is just two of you, you can really target the stalls you want to visit and spend the maximum time at them.  If you are in a large group, it can be difficult if you are in a huge group.  Moreover, if you are in a huge group, you may overwhelm the industry member.  While there are some bigger stalls, most of them are rather small and intimate!


Dress Code:

While this could seem superfluous, it can complicated to know how to dress for a festival.  While Sundance is generally après Ski (after ski, so lots of cute sweaters and warm boots), and Cannes is very glamorous, Berlinale is very much a “dark colour” festival. Black coats, black shoes, black shirts or dresses.  I would describe Berlinale dress code as “business casual”. Maybe a suit jacket for men, but no tie.

TOP TIP: Dress to impress, but don’t overdo it.  You want to look smart, not flashy.  Would you feel confident in someone who doesn’t present themselves well? You don’t have to have a beauty stylist on the side, but try to look nice and polished.


Best Way to Get Access: Never Say No to a Party:

If you get invited, definitely go. This is very important. Parties are where you make the best connections; people are calm, not running around, and almost all will have had a drink or two.  If you want to talk to an industry professional and they too busy during the day, try to catch them at an event.

That being said, always hang out at the MGB for happy hours (you don’t need to drink alcohol). These happy hours are hosted by different film commissioners and they are great opportunities to meet and mingle with people who can maybe help you in the future.  Plus, you never know who you’re going to meet! Be friendly, open and don’t be shy – everyone knows what it’s like to attend a market for the first time. If they’re rude, then they’re not worth talking to – usually these types of people won’t have anything to offer you anyway.


What to carry at all times during Berlinale:

Berlinale festival locations are strict with the size of bags you can bring into the buildings.  The festival provides a bag when you pick up your accreditation – my recommendation is to use this bag to carry your papers, magazines, and wallet throughout the festival. They are usually quite stylish and the right size!

Never leave your badge/accreditation at home.  While it may seem silly, the festival is extremely strict with entry. No badge, no entry.


The Marriott or the Ritz: Fancy and Warm!

Need a break from the hustle and bustle of the MGB or the market?  Take a break at either the Ritz Carlton Hotel lobby or the Marriott.  Order a fancy coffee (albeit, an overpriced one), sit down and observe. The Marriott and the Ritz are festival locations, with business meetings and interesting people hanging around.  Grab a seat, listen to conversations around you and offer up your surrounding seats. Again, you never know who you’re going to meet!


Have fun!

My most crucial and final tip!  Have fun. Relax. You are students exploring a market, most likely for the first time!  Have goals in mind for the future, but do not stress yourself trying to achieve these goals. You are here to learn and experience.   My main suggestion is to take your time, get to know people, make contacts, and then build the relationship over the time until you turn in your dissertation. Then hit them hard with what you want!

Written by Courtney Harmstone, alumni of the MAIFB and Film Producer

Oscar Wilde would have been on Grindr – but he preferred a more clandestine connection

This post originally appeared on The Conversation. This article was written by Jack Sargent, PhD student in History. 

It has never been so easy to find love, or sex, quickly. In 2017, there is nothing shameful or illicit about using dating apps or digital tools to connect with someone else. More than 100 years ago, of course, things were very different.

Oscar Wilde and other men and women who, like him, desired same-sex relationships, had to resort to attending secret parties to meet potential partners. The idea that it would become normal to meet and flirt with an ever changing group of strangers, sending explicit pictures or a few cheeky sentences on a device you hold in your hand, would have amused the writer. The openness about conducting such relationships would have amazed him.

But would Oscar Wilde have enjoyed the most famous gay dating app, Grindr, and the way it has contributed to gay culture? We know he would probably have welcomed the fact that gay men and women could easily meet new sexual partners. In the late-Victorian period, Wilde’s membership of clandestine homoerotic networks of clubs and societies, was far more furtive. They were gatherings of forbidden passions and desires, shrouded in secrecy.

Wilde loved being part of this underground community. He adored being with crowds of immaculately dressed people in beautiful rooms. He believed the most important goal in life was to experience emotion and sensuality, to have intense connections and embrace beauty.

This belief came from his involvement in a movement called Aestheticism. Late-Victorian aesthetes proposed that beauty and sensation were the keys to an individual’s authentic experience of life. They argued that beauty and connections with beauty should be pursued even at the expense of conventional systems of morality, and what society considered right or wrong. For Wilde, this meant he thought about whether it was aesthetically – not morally – right to sleep with someone.

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854 and died in Paris in 1900, a few years after his release from jail for “gross indecency” with other men. Before his imprisonment, Wilde was (I think almost uniquely) shockingly positive and active about his desire for other men. This was a time when same-sex desire and intercourse was illegal, seen as illicit and monstrous – an abhorrent illness which should be exercised from Christian culture.

Wilde met and slept with many other men, continuing relationships for years, months, weeks, or maybe even only a night, before effectively dropping them and moving on. Is this so different to how gay relationships are conducted now?

Every part of gay culture today stems from the way that Wilde and the group of men he mixed with lived their lives. Their philosophy that they should have their own dedicated spaces to meet still stands. At first they evolved into gay bars and clubs. Now those physical spaces are closing as members of the gay community go online to meet each other.

The importance of being on Grindr. Shutterstock

Grindr, now eight years old, allows people to make connections, if they like the look of someone’s body. It is the same type of connection that Wilde was interested in, but it doesn’t give people the intense, sensual involvement with another human being he was looking for. You might see someone you like on Grindr, but there is no promise they will respond to your message. Downloading and using the app doesn’t automatically make you part of a network of people that are thinking and feeling intense emotional sensations. Wilde, at his parties and gatherings, taking risks and breaking the law, must have felt part of a group who came together to all feel something special and exciting.

This excitement was not only to do with the illegal nature of the acts undertaken in secret. It had something to do with the vibrancy and sensuality offered by being in a particular place, engaging sensually and physically with other people, reading them for signs of interest, right down to the smallest gesture.

Digital declarations

This is not possible on Grindr. Grindr offers instead a potentially unlimited amount of possible connections, but connections which are digital, not physical. Once downloaded, the app offers a digital network of people that can be loaded and reloaded with a simple swipe of the screen. The continual possibility of meeting someone different or better means that users don’t necessarily need to commit to connecting. It seems we are in danger of creating a generation of potentially disconnected individuals, who rather than going to a gay bar, choose to spend the night in, waiting for a stranger to send them a message.

Had he been able to, Wilde would have downloaded Grindr, of that I think we can be certain. Would he have liked it? Well, he may have found some beauty in the technology and the freedom it represents. And perhaps, sometimes, he would have enjoyed the novelty.

But he would probably have preferred the clubs, societies and networks he engaged with during the late 1800s. For while they did not promise successful or happy encounters, they did foster physical relationships between men within spaces of affirmation, liberation and fulfilment. And although Grindr also offers the chance for casual sex, I think late Victorian gay men would have been saddened by the lack of opportunity for their counterparts today to connect emotionally with others.

Being lovesick was a real disease in the Middle Ages

This post originally appeared on The Conversation. The piece was written by Laura Kalas Williams, Postdoctoral Researcher in Medieval Literature and Medicine at Exeter. 

Love sure does hurt, as the Everly Brothers knew very well. And while it is often romanticised or made sentimental, the brutal reality is that many of us experience fairly unpleasant symptoms when in the throes of love. Nausea, desperation, a racing heart, a loss of appetite, an inability to sleep, a maudlin mood – sound familiar?

Today, research into the science of love recognises the way in which the neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenalin and serotonin in the brain cause the often-unpleasant physical symptoms that people experience when they are in love. A study in 2005 concluded that romantic love was a motivation or goal-orientated state that leads to emotions or sensations like euphoria or anxiety.

But the connection between love and physical affliction was made long ago. In medieval medicine, the body and soul were closely intertwined – the body, it was thought, could reflect the state of the soul.

Humoral imbalance

Text and tabular of humours and fevers, according to Galen, c.1420. In MS 49 Wellcome Apocalypse, f.43r. Wellcome Library

Medical ideas in the Middle Ages were based on the doctrine of the four bodily humours: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. In a perfectly healthy person, all four were thought to be perfectly balanced, so illness was believed to be caused by disturbances to this balance.

Such ideas were based on the ancient medical texts of physicians like Galen, who developed a system of temperaments which associated a person’s predominant humour with their character traits. The melancholic person, for example, was dominated by the humour of black bile, and considered to have a cold and dry constitution.

And as my own research has shown, people with a melancholic disposition were thought, in the Middle Ages, to be more likely to suffer from lovesickness.

The 11th-century physician and monk, Constantine the African, translated a treatise on melancholia which was popular in Europe in the Middle Ages. He made clear the connection between an excess of the black bile of melancholy in the body, and lovesickness:

The love that is also called ‘eros’ is a disease touching the brain … Sometimes the cause of this love is an intense natural need to expel a great excess of humours … this illness causes thoughts and worries as the afflicted person seeks to find and possess what they desire.

Curing unrequited love

Towards the end of the 12th century, the physician Gerard of Berry wrote a commentary on this text, adding that the lovesick sufferer becomes fixated on an object of beauty and desire because of an imbalanced constitution. This fixation, he wrote, causes further coldness, which perpetuates melancholia.

Whoever is the object of desire – and in the case of medieval religious women, the beloved was often Christ – the unattainability or loss of that object was a trauma which, for the medieval melancholic, was difficult to relieve.

But since the condition of melancholic lovesickness was considered to be so deeply rooted, medical treatments did exist. They included exposure to light, gardens, calm and rest, inhalations, and warm baths with moistening plants such as water lilies and violets. A diet of lamb, lettuce, eggs, fish, and ripe fruit was recommended, and the root of hellebore was employed from the days of Hippocrates as a cure. The excessive black bile of melancholia was treated with purgatives, laxatives and phlebotomy (blood-letting), to rebalance the humours.

Blood-letting in Aldobrandino of Siena’s ‘Régime du Corps’. British Library, MS Sloane 2435, f.11v. France, late 13thC. Wikimedia Commons

Tales of woe

It is little wonder, then, that the literature of medieval Europe contains frequent medical references in relation to the thorny issue of love and longing. Characters sick with mourning proliferate the poetry of the Middle Ages.

The grieving Black Knight in Chaucer’s The Book of the Duchess mourns his lost beloved with infinite pain and no hope of a cure:

This ys my peyne wythoute red (remedy),
Alway deynge and be not ded.

In Marie de France’s 12th-century Les Deus Amanz, a young man dies of exhaustion when attempting to win the hand of his beloved, who then dies of grief herself. Even in life, their secret love is described as causing them “suffering”, and that their “love was a great affliction”. And in the anonymous Pearl poem, a father, mourning the loss of his daughter, or “perle”, is wounded by the loss: “I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere” (I languish, wounded by unrequited love).

The lover and the priest in the ‘Confessio Amantis’, early 15th century. MS Bodl. 294, f.9r. Bodleian Library, Oxford University

The entirety of John Gower’s 14th-century poem, Confessio Amantis (The Lover’s Confession), is framed around a melancholic lover who complains to Venus and Cupid that he is sick with love to the point that he desires death, and requires a medicine (which he has yet to find) to be cured.

The lover in Confessio Amantis does, finally, receive a cure from Venus. Seeing his dire condition, she produces a cold “oignement” and anoints his “wounded herte”, his temples, and his kidneys. Through this medicinal treatment, the “fyri peine” (fiery pain) of his love is dampened, and he is cured.

The medicalisation of love has perpetuated, as the sciences of neurobiology and evolutionary biology show today. In 1621, Robert Burton published the weighty tome The Anatomy of Melancholy. And Freud developed similar ideas in the early 20th century, in the book Mourning and Melancholia. The problem of the conflicted human heart clearly runs deep.

So if the pain of love is piercing your heart, you could always give some of these medieval cures a try.

Children have long been unfairly hit by US presidential executive orders

This post originally appeared on The Conversation. This piece was written by Rachel Pistol, Associate Research Fellow (History). 

Around 75 years ago, in February 1942, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced relocation and internment of more than 110,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry. The majority of them were American citizens, and a large proportion were children.

But unlike President Trump’s 2017 executive order to halt immigration and ban refugees from American soil, Roosevelt’s sweeping political move did not provoke any protest or dissent. Both presidents had mentioned the notion of “national security’ in their orders, and both decrees were said to be aimed at specific national groups. So is President Trump merely copying the policy of one of his more popular predecessors?

From the moment the US entered World War II in late 1941, all “enemy aliens” living in America – German, Austrian, Italian, and Japanese – were subject to restrictions on their freedom. These included the imposition of curfews and a ban on owning radios. So the real significance of EO9066, as it is known, was that it authorised the detention not just of enemy aliens, but also of American citizens. In theory, any American citizen could be relocated by order of the military.

But EO9066 was created for a particular purpose, which was to enable the internment of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of America. It also made it possible for further orders to be authorised, such as Civilian Exclusion Order No.79, which ordered that “all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien” be excluded from a portion of the West Coast.

Japanese American children pledging allegiance in California, 1942. US Library of Congress

Yet one of the most striking things about EO9066 is that, unlike Trump’s executive order, it does not once talk about nationality. Instead, Roosevelt gave military commanders the right to “prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate military commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded”.

Roosevelt declares war against Japan.National Archives and Records Administration

The creation of protected military areas during times of war is not unusual, and makes sense for security reasons. However, usually these zones surround military installations and coastal areas where the threat of invasion is greatest. In the case of the US during World War II, the whole of the West Coast was designated a military protected area. The most likely place for invasion, however, was the only place on American soil that had already been attacked – Hawaii.

About 40% of the population of Hawaii was of Japanese descent, as opposed to the West Coast, where they made up just over 1%. The military knew that Hawaii could not function if all the Japanese people were removed, and therefore decided to impose martial law. Individuals (usually men) considered the greatest threat to national security were arrested and interned, while the rest of their families were able to live at liberty.

The military’s decision to selectively intern on Hawaii was backed up by J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, who was quoted as saying: “This evacuation isn’t necessary; I’ve already got all the bad boys.”

Currently, any immigrant or refugee who is given entry to the US goes through a stringent vetting procedure. This is partly why, according to American think tank the Cato Institute, no refugees have been involved in terrorist attacks on US soil since the Refugee Act of 1980. It is also worth noting that those behind major terrorist attacks in the US have mostly been born in America, or were permanent legal residents from countries not covered by Trump’s ban.

Land of the free?

But perhaps the greatest similarity between Roosevelt’s and Trump’s orders is how American-born children are affected. Half of those interned under EO966 during World War II were American-born minors. Some have said this was inevitable because of the decision to intern both Japanese parents in the continental US. However, not all German, Austrian, or Italian mothers were interned, which meant that not all of their children were taken to camps.

In some cases, German-American children were left without care when both their father and mother were arrested. In other cases, families could “voluntarily” request to join husbands and fathers interned. There was no choice for Japanese-Americans. In other allied countries such as Great Britain, most enemy alien women were allowed to remain at liberty, along with their children. In the US, the children were considered as much of a threat as their foreign born parents, leading to the internment of entire family units.

This seems to still be the case today, as demonstrated by the fact that an American five-year-old boy was detained for more than four hours as a result of Trump’s immigration order because his mother was Iranian. Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, defended the decision because “to assume that just because of someone’s age and gender that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong”.

American-born children, therefore, are still considered dangerous, but only, it seems, if they are born to non-white immigrant parents. For others born in the US their rights appear to remain linked to the country of their parents’ birth. Just as in 1942, the promise of “liberty and justice for all” still does not to apply to all American citizens.