And the Bear Goes to…

Strausberger Platz – lights, camera, action. This year’s Berlinale entries are currently being shot in the heart of Berlin.

From 11 to 21 February, cinephiles from all over the world will be gathering in Berlin. More than 400 films will be screened and almost half a million tickets sold at the Berlinale, making it one of the major events in the international film festival calendar.
It’s always been a festival of superlatives – not least for the journalists from 160 countries who will attend the red-carpet parade at Potsdamer Platz. Clint Eastwood, Sharon Stone, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep – tuxedos and evening gowns will crackle in the cold air.

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Image courtesy of kallejipp – Photocase.de

This year the Berlinale will award an Honorary Golden Bear to cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who has shot over 130 films for directors Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and Wolfgang Petersen. Petersen (Das Boot, Troy, Air Force One, Enemy Mine…) is approaching the tower at Strausberger Platz at the time of writing. Before he has even entered the building, an armada of staff is ready to welcome him. After all, 14 trucks lining the street are hard to miss.
Although Wolfgang Petersen has already won a plethora of awards, he has yet to receive his first Berlinale Bear. Who knows, maybe the film he is currently shooting at Strausberger Platz will finally fill that gap on his trophy shelf. A remake of a 1974 West-German film, which was in turn based on Ralph Maloney’s novel The Nixon Recession Caper (1972), Vier gegen die Wand stars four of the biggest names in contemporary German cinema: Til Schweiger, Matthias Schweighöfer, Michael “Bully” Herbig and Jan Josef Liefers. Two of them even have acting experience in Hollywood films under their belt: Schweiger had a part in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and was cast alongside Halle Berry and Jessica Biel in Happy New Year. Schweighöfer, whose What a Man had a US cinema release, was rated “one to watch” by the New York Times. For the moment, the four are happily ensconced in the kitchen on the third floor feasting on smoked salmon – right next to the owner of the apartment, who is defending her working space at the table.

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Image courtesy of #almo – Photocase.de

While the successful stylist is combing the web for photogenic objects for her next photo shoot, the apartment is reconstructed around her. The formerly white hallway has been painted an odd shade of green and fitted out in a way that made her “howl with laughter” the first time she saw it. Fortunately, she won’t have to live on location for long. Her entire apartment has been recreated to scale in the Babelsberg studio. Today will be the only location shooting at Strausberger Platz. But this is by no means the last team we’ll be seeing here. UFA Filmproduktion has already announced their intention to shoot some scenes of an international feature film production, the title, director and cast of which is a closely guarded secret for now.

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Image courtesy of Franzworks – Photocase.de

After the Fall of the Wall, the Babelsberg Film Studio, once the heart of the East German film industry, grew to become the largest film studio in Europe. Productions (partially) made in Berlin – or rather, in Berlin and Potsdam, including Strausberger Platz – include The Hunger Games, The Reader, Inglourious Basterds, The Ghostwriter, Anonymous, The Three Musketeers, Cloud Atlas and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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Image courtesy of Andreas Tölke

The fifth season of Homeland was filmed on 100 different locations, including in Berlin, Potsdam, Nauen, Luckau, Falkensee and Schönefeld over a period of six months, some of it literally right here on our doorstep. The production vans were parked on Strausberger Platz for over a week, and there was a good chance of bumping into Claire Danes or Matt Damon on Karl-Marx-Allee. Talking about Matt Damon, there are rumour of his imminent return for an as-yet untitled sequel to the Bourne film series. The car chases in The Bourne Conspiracy and The Bourne Ultimatum were shot in Berlin, though set in Moscow. The next time you watch a film, look out for floor-to-ceiling windows with wrought-iron railings on the bottom half – a sure sign that the scene in question may well have been shot at Strausberger Platz. The fountain is even more unmistakable, of course. If you can’t make it to Strausberger Platz for whatever reason, the film industry will bring Strausberger Platz into your living room.