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09 April 2012

How is it that Berlin has Stayed Somewhat Unique ?

The accent is disappearing, and the place is getting cleaned up in a way that doesn’t exactly scream “you’re in Berlin”, but it has managed to live in its’ own past to some degree. Natalie Holmes writes:
Just over 20 years since the wall came down and Germany reunified, the city has, predictably, changed and developed unevenly. Some areas, such as the central tourist and business districts, have caught up quickly and are virtually indistinguishable from their more established foreign and domestic counterparts.

Still, there are areas that development’s claws have not devoured, and yet other places refusing to accept that homogeneity is an inevitable consequence. Of course, Germany’s capital has its fair share of multiplex cinemas, but unlike any other city I’ve lived in or visited, I’ve never actually had to step foot inside one.
Hanging on to itself in part is taking the form of keeping alive independent movie houses, particularly in the former West-Berlin which in the post-war days represented the first sign of a a return to both intellectualism and aspirational living. They also hosted domestically made films, especially independent ones, going back decades when even then studio distribution was overwhelmingly powerful.

In the island called walled West-Berlin, it was also the broadest-ranging and least managed or controlled form of entertainment and exposure to new forms of the arts and thinking.

It needs to be understood that to those inhabiting the 2nd half of the 20th century, there had not really been an independent and thoughtful cinema culture in their lifetimes. Preceding it were two things: Hitler’s Ufa studios, and imports which were emotionally distant as they had emerged from other cultures.

While Holmes presents to us the beloved movie palaces that deserve their due, it’s easy to overlook the neighborhood Kinos such as Filmkunst 66 near Savignyplatz that have been in operation since 1971.

This is what the film culture had to emerge from:

It grew to become an affordable means of entertainment, providing an evening of relief in the difficulties of people’s lives, to become a conduit of new ideas and the arts as times grew better. And it all happened a long time ago without an arts council “minding” it, a subsidy, and on the personal initiative of free people who loved it.

That alone deserves as much recognition for unique culture and unique thinking as many other things.

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