Breaking Down Barriers

Berlin-Touring while Berlin-Festivaling can be quite exhausting.

We’re going waaaay back.  Back to a time when I was uncertain what my future would have in store.  It was a dark time of introspection (and outrospection).  I’m taking you back to March 2016.


When I first considered applying to graduate school in London, I did an ample amount of research (as you do) into my options. Beyond the universities and degree programmes, I read individual class descriptions to see if the offerings of the individual uni’s fit my idea of what I wanted my Master’s degree to contain.

One thing that drew me towards Birkbeck was an offering called Film Festivals which included a mandatory trip to Berlin, Germany to attend the Berlinale International Film Festival.  When I was eventually accepted at Birkbeck and was faced with the prospect of choosing my classes, I realized that this was a trip that would actually happen and I was at a bit of a loss.

As a Jew, visiting Germany was something I’d never previously considered.  My grandmother was in recovery after surgery and I went to visit shortly before my departure.  As I sat there and talked about my upcoming move, Rick Steves’ Europe was on in the background.  I looked up and began paying attention when he mentioned Berlin.

My grandmother and I had a discussion about the implications of Jews traveling to Germany, in which she confided that she’d never been nor had any real interest in going; she likely never would go.  I think I made the decision then and there that this was a journey I was determined to make.

Long story short: I signed up for the class, moved to London, and bought my February plane ticket to Berlin in November.

I ended up rooming with three other girls in my Film Festivals class in an interesting airbnb off Leipzigerstrasse that was the official apartment for the World Chess-Boxing League.

I’m not even kidding, I slept under a Bobby Fisher quote.  It was awesome.

The first full day in Berlin, the four of us went to get our accreditation badges for Berlinale.

Afterwards, we decided to participate in a little bit of touristing (as you do…)

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Murdered Jews of the Holocaust Memorial
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What’s the rule about taking a selfie at the Murdered Jews memorial? Mid-level smile -cause it’s not exactly a happy place… But it was gorgeous…
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Found the American Embassy.
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Brandenburg Gate
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Wandered over to Checkpoint Charlie
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A chunk of the Berlin Wall.
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The architect at the Jewish Museum, Daniel Libeskind, created empty spaces in several parts of the building. These so-called voids extend through the entire museum and represent the absence of Jews from Germany society.
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The Memory Void contains a work by the Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman, who calls his installation “Fallen Leaves”. He has dedicated the over 10,000 faces covering the floor to all innocent victims of war and violence.

After a solid day of walking the entire city, we settled in and made dinner.

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Look at those bright, shining faces.  Little did we know that was the last full night of sleep for a good, long while.


Festival: Daaaaay 1

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That would be a panoramic photo of the line for student accreditation tickets.  I became intimately familiar with this line throughout the festival, as we had to wait in it every. single. day.

Most people began lining up at 5:30 for the ticket office which opened at 8:30am.  On the first day, I made the mistake of showing up at 8:30.  Three hours later, we left the line, tickets in hand, for showings on the following day.


I’ll spare you the gory details, but what essentially followed was 10 days of averaging 4 hours of sleep, 4 films a day, and an awful lot of walking.

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Raoul Peck, acclaimed director of “I Am Not Your Negro” and pictured here at the World Premiere of his newest film, “The Young Karl Marx.”
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Follow my journey through selfies as I get progressively more tired.
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Foley Artists/Musicians/Sound Designers Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Nicolas Becker, known for creating the unique score/sound behind Arrival.
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Ticketing issues.
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Front row for the Gurinder Chadha talk. Gurinder is the director of films such as Bend it Like Beckham, Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, and most recently Viceroy’s House (which premiered here in Berlin.)
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I am not amused…

Eventually, I gave myself a day off, as there weren’t any films I wanted to see that day.  I wound up meandering the city a bit (and going to the Berlin Public Transportation Office to contest a fine I’d received on the subway.  It was resolved.  That’s all you need to know. >_>)

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Teeheehee! I’m five…
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Panorama of the Sony Center where one can find one of the 20something cinemas that are part of the festival.
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“Roof” of the Sony Center.
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Oh look what we found! So close…and yet so far…
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House of One. This area is the building ground for a place of worship going up that’ll serve Jews, Muslims, and Christians all at the same time. LOVE this concept.
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Berliner Dom: Cathedral built in the 1800’s containing an organ with 7,000 pipes.
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The insets are scattered throughout Berlin. They protrude and are literally designed to be tripped over. Each one has the name of a Jew that was taken from their home (in this location), on what date, their birth date, to which concentration camp they were taken, and what happened to them.
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Alexanderplatz. Very famous plaza that was used in many scenes in The Bourne Supremacy.
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Weltzeituhr: a huge clock in the middle of Alexanderplatz split into 24 sections and showing the time around the world.
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Berlin Wall memorial.
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One thing I disliked about the Berlin Wall memorial is that people, to this day, are still graffiti-ing it. Lessens the impact somewhat, I think.

On the final few days of the festival, as everyone was quite exhausted, the pictures died down a bit.

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“Everyone! Act normal!”
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Bye bye Berlin Bear!
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My festival, clocking in at 27 films in 9 days. 🙂 Not pictured (since I didn’t need a ticket for them): Chariots of Fire, Como Nossos Pais, Casting, Bickels [Socialism], I Am Not Your Negro, Eisenkopf, and 4 meetings with curators of different sections of the festival…and two days of tourism. Can’t forget those!

All in all, Berlin was an interesting experience.  Not only did I get to tour the city hardcore for two days, but I spent 12 days living there and experiencing Berlinale.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to get out of the city, and there are still four other cities in Germany that I’d like to see, but I had a good time.

Berlin is a city that feels seeped in the past.  It doesn’t matter where you go in the city, you are always just around the corner from a monument or memorial of some kind.  While culturally fascinating, that emotional weight can also be quite taxing from a tourism standpoint.


Next up:

  • Charlotte and Zita arrive!!!
    • 2.5 days in London
    • 3 days in Paris
    • 1 day at Versailles
    • 4 days in Dubrovnik
  • Mom and Scott arrive!!!
    • 1.5 days in London
    • 3 days in Edinburgh
    • 3 days in Amsterdam

And then a distinct lack of travel because I’ll be working 32 unpaid hours a week at my new work placement with the BFI.

Catch you on the flip side!

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Now studying to get my Master's in Film in London, England. Nice to meet you!

1 thought on “Breaking Down Barriers”

  1. As depressing as just about all the sites you saw are it’s amazing how pretty everything looks. Maybe it’s just your pictures. Also that clock sounds ridiculous.
    Those pictures though.

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