In February this year 20 students and 2 members of staff visited Berlin to attend the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival. The visit was arranged through Study Link Tours and the arrangements were highly efficient and thorough, with no delays or problems.
The coach transfer from Berlin Schoenefeld Airport to our accommodation next to Berlin Central Hauptbahnhoff was possibly one the quietest coach transfers in Wyke College history, as the students had not slept the previous night due to our very early departure and had been too excited to sleep on the short flight. Following our arrival at the Meininger hotel, students began their stay in the metropolis with an afternoon visit to and tour of Rundfunk HQ – Berlin’s publicly funded TV and Radio broadcasting house. Students were awestruck to find enormous TV studios and concert halls hidden within a very corporate and unexciting office block exterior, and were fascinated to listen to our very knowledgeable tour guide as she revealed the technical specifications of each creative space – even covering how the building was used during both World wars.
Students were tired, but excited to attend their first film screening of the festival – a screening of Andrew Droz Palermo’s ‘One and Two’ at Haus der Kulturen der Welt with the director and some cast and crew in attendance. John Dobson was awake enough to ask the director an insightful question regarding the physical and emotional barriers experienced by the protagonists of the film in the Q&A session following the screening.
Students then walked along the river Spree, past the Reichstag and Brandenburg gate – experiencing landmarks by night, back to the hotel for their evening meal. The evening walk was slightly extended and enlivened by a political protest which had, unfortunately, gathered outside Berlin Central Hauptbahnhoff. Students were exhilarated to witness the protest and it was the subject of interesting discussion over their evening meal.
The Tuesday was packed full of sights and culturally enriching experiences, as students visited: the excellent Deutsche Film Museum in Potsdamer Platz; reflected upon Berlin’s political history when visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Reichstag; before attending an afternoon screening of Beata Gårdeler’s hard-hitting Swedish film ‘Flocken’ at the Cinemaxx.
Again, the director and some cast and crew were present, and our plucky Wyke students asked two questions during the Q&A – Liam Johnson asked the director about the films use of a dual narrative approach, which was well received.
Students went for a quick evening meal at Amrit Indian Restaurant, and were still arguing about the content of ‘Flocken’ whilst virtually running to their evening screening of Mathieu Denis’ French Canadian film ‘Corbo’ back at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Students were engaged by the films political exploration of 1960’s Quebec, and one again managed to ask the director a question during the Q&A. John Dobson asked Mathieu Denis about the ending of the film, in which the protagonist realises too late, that the bomb he is carrying is about to detonate earlier than expected. Students were brimming with enthusiasm for the city and the festival when they returned to the hotel, and looking forward to seeing some of East Berlin the next day.
On Wednesday the group took the S5 train to Alexanderplatz in East Berlin and whizzed to the top of the TV Tower to see the city sights from 203 metres above the ground, before getting back onto the S5 to visit East Side Gallery – the largest preserved stretch of The Berlin Wall. Students marvelled at the moving images that had been painted onto the wall, and the messages of hope written on it. Students took the opportunity to make their own non-permanent mark on the wall (in coloured chalk), and really enjoyed the sense that their visit to Berlin would be acknowledged by other visitors. We then walked over the beautiful Oberbaum bridge to Burgermeister, to enjoy a burger from the cult burger bar (formerly a public toilet).
Students then enjoyed 2 hours of shopping in Postdamer Platz before reconvening at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt for the final screening of their time in Berlin. Students loved John Williams’ UK coming of age film ‘The Beat Beneath My Feet’, and once again fired questions at the director, cast and crew in the Q&A. Hannah Morice asked a pertinent question about the film’s use of music. Not to be outdone by students, ELP asked the director about the representation of sef-harm within the film, and managed to mention that our group were from Hull and had come a long way to experience Berlinale. Students were over-joyed when star of the film, Nicholas Galitzine, posed for pictures with the group and a few of them got a cheeky ‘selfie’ with him. The director, stars and producer, Michael Muller, were keen to speak ELP, JST and students after the Q&A and want us to contact him about a screening of the film in Hull this May.
Whilst arguing about who was going to marry Nicholas Galitzine, students made their way to Lindenbrau in The Sony Centre for their evening meal of traditional German food. Sam Walker-Schofield was celebrating her 18th birthday, and loved the cake that JST and ELP had sneakily sourced. Students reflected upon their time in Berlin, and wrote their favourite memories onto left over luggage labels for ELP to display in College upon our return. ELP thanked the students for being such amazing ambassadors for the College, and the students thanked ELP and JST for organising the trip. All were in high spirits as they returned to the hotel, and everyone was in agreement that Berlinale 2015 had been amazing.
It falls to me to thank Jonathan Towlson for accompanying myself and the students, as having the support of an experienced member of staff who had travelled to other European film festivals was hugely beneficial at all times. I must also offer my sincere thanks to Alison Sharpe, Sue Ellison, Anna Lamplough, and Cheryl Morrod for their endless support in terms of the administration required to make the trip happen.