chapter  8
20 Pages

Inter-city cinema: Hong Kong at the Berlinale

Berlin February, 2007: As an attendee at the 2007 Berlin film festival (the Berlinale), I was a cinema-focused tourist, negotiating both a larger and smaller space in a complex urban venue. Occasionally on public transportation but mostly on foot in the city, I became what Walter Benjamin famously referred to as “a kaleidoscope equipped with consciousness;” I was functioning with the kind of fragmented perceptual apparatus that reflects the shocks delivered by the city’s multi-partitioned, hyper-stimulating environment in a city “flooded by streams of words and impressions.”627 As Benjamin noted, such shocks are also delivered by film, which formalizes the shocks of the city’s sensorium.628 First, I was situated in Berlin as a whole, a city that no longer conformed to its expected imaginary because its recent reconstruction had effaced most of its cold war history. Gone is the Berlin Wall as well as much of what else had been the cityscape around Potsdamer Platz, the main festival site. That city center, which had once been in the eastern sector of the formerly divided Berlin, and for years since had been primarily a construction site, is now a thriving commercial center with theaters, shops, and restaurants, enframed in an architecture that is reminiscent of the Potsdamer Platz of the 1920s and 30s – a busy square that served as “a major transport hub . . . and contained numerous bars, cafes and cinemas” – but owes nothing to its recent past.629 The recent historical instability of Berlin’s built environment is paralleled by “a certain fragility of national identity” owed largely to a past from which Berliners, like most contemporary Germans, would like to distance themselves. At the same time Berliners are engaged in a “proliferation of, and struggle over, alternative futures.”630