We Know It When We See It

Maryanne Redpath and Christina Milligan - Photo: Tony Forster

Maryanne Redpath and Christina Milligan
Photo: Tony Forster

At Ngā Aho Whakaari’s recent hui Maryanne Redpath, head of the Berlinale’s Generation section, sat down with producer Christina Milligan to talk festivals and success.

Redpath was born in New Zealand and spent time working in Australia, but 30 years of living in Germany (since her late 20s) has left a mark on her speaking voice at least – there is a clarity to her diction, allied with a slight German lilt in her speech that belies her Kiwi roots.

During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Redpath worked as a multi-media performance artist, taught drama to handicapped people and gave art lessons to Aboriginal children in Central Australia, amongst many other areas of exploration. She also wrote and directed experimental 8mm and 16mm films. Then Europe called.

At the Berlinale, where she has worked since 1993, Redpath presently wears three hats: director of the festival’s Generation section; Berlinale Delegate for New Zealand and Australia; and head curator of NATIVE, the Berlinale’s mostly retrospective programme of indigenous films.

The Berlin International Film Festival is the largest wprld’s largest film festival, measured by attendance with around haf a million tickets sold per edition. Founded in 1951, the festival runs for 10 days each February, its 400+ films occupying almost every cinema in the city of 3.5 million.

Kiwi films, particularly those with Maori content, have featured regularly at the Berlinale over the years – including Mahana and Born to Dance this year. This Way of Life won a Jury prize there in 2010. An Angel at my Table, Boy, No. 2, Two Little Boys, What We Do in the Shadows and UTU Redux have also played the Berlinale in the last few years.

Every second year NATIVe focuses its attentions on a different part of the world. The next regional focus will be the Arctic, a region Maori Television has good relationships with through the World Indigenous TV Broadcasters Network (WITBN) it established in 2008.

The Berlinale’s Generation section, originally called Kinderfilmfest (Children’s Film Festival), is aimed at young people, but doesn’t programme the kind of content you might expect to find at many children’s events. The films selected are often not made for children but are ones where the selectors want to explore what young people might discover from them. There are political sections for kids from four years up and from 14 years old up. Organisers openly encourage all ages to attend.

Alongside the Official Competition, which features 20 films, the festival runs a number of programme strands of which Generation and Native are only two. Panorama features documentaries, queer and arthouse films; Forum features films which make a statement against the commercial mainstream; and there’s a shorts programme – although some of the programme strands – including Generation – have their own shorts programmes. The Berlinale has also recently begun to offer a strand on television series.

“We know how to get audiences, how to publicise,” Redpath said. “We are a predominantly white organisation, but we consult around the world regarding content.”

Milligan asked, “What are you looking for, and when?”

The festival’s programmers travel, looking at work at various times in various countries. Such a trip was what had brought Redpath home at the time of the hui. “We lock her in a room and throw films at her for a week,” the NZFC’s Jasmin McSweeney put it. Earlier this year, visiting Directors Fortnight programmer Benjamin Illos shared similar experiences in his talk at Script to Screen’s Writers Room.