Oscar winner Juliette Binoche made her first appearance as jury president at the Berlin Film Festival today, fielding questions at a press conference that began with her thoughts on women’s representation, segued to politics and Netflix, and then closed on Harvey Weinstein.
Of the latter, Binoche, who worked on Weinstein films Chocolat and The English Patient, said answering a question about the disgraced mogul was “opening a book that has already been opened and discussed, I’ve said what I had to say.” After hesitating, she did allow, “I never had problems with him. I could see he had problems, but as a producer he was wonderful, most of the time. I think he was a great producer, and that we shouldn’t forget even though I know it was difficult for directors and actors, and especially actresses. I want to say peace to his mind and let justice do what it needs to do.”
With regards the actual festival, it’s been highlighted that over 40% of the competition entries in Berlin are directed by women, a more even split than other A-list events. Binoche said, “We’re opening hearts and minds… It’s a good sign.”
She was seated near fellow jury member Rajendra Roy, the Chief Curator of Film at MoMA, who was sporting a T-shirt that read “The Future of Film is Female.”
A prevalent theme at the Berlinale is “the personal is political.” Asked how political the 2019 festival would be, Binoche responded, “We will use our knowledge, our experience and our awareness to judge what are the best films necessary for the present time and the future. What feels human is political, it’s a consequence, but the world is quite egotistical right now. A lot of rich countries are closing their borders… there are a lot of questions and urgencies. I don’t know what the discussions will be, but very much in my mind is a responsibility for future generations. We need to do something. I’m amazed to see how our governments are not really working as seriously as they should.””
Producer and jury member Trudie Styler called Berlin “very courageous in looking at issues that might be considered more verboten than other film festivals” and said 2019 was “a coming forward moment.”
One of the female directors in competition is Isabel Coixet with Elisa Y Marcela which is a Netflix title. Binoche didn’t get too deep on the Netflix versus theatrical question, noting fest chief Dieter Kosslick had been “very clear” that the movie is being released theatrically in Coixet’s home country of Spain; “For Dieter, that’s enough reason to have the film here in competition.” The actress did comment, however, that the streamer has “fragilized cinema” for some people, but also “feels exciting because it’s something new.”
Oscar winner Sebastian Lelio, whose A Fantastic Woman debuted in Berlin in 2017, said of Netflix, “We all understand film is not 35mm, it’s not digital — it’s language. As long as it keeps being spoken it will live.” Saying he tends to be “more integrated than apocalyptic,” Lelio added that he still wonders if “a real cultural relevance and penetration of a film that has strength can really happen without the theatrical experience. We are at a crossroads, things are changing but I don’t think film is going to die. I’m a defender of the magical collective experience of watching a film in a theater.”
Berlin kicks off tonight with the opening screening of Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness Of Strangers. The fest runs through February 17.