First impressions of the Berlinale are an ambivalent mixture of sophisticated programming, great variety, lovely surfaces, all the shades of pink amidst a well-oiled division between fans/stars, outsiders/insiders, and talents/audience. It’s not a surprise, only serves as a timely reminder of just how long this has gone unchecked all across the industry.
One of the good things you get by being born in a socialist country is a sense of ownership of culture and education. Everything is accessible, and mostly free, or super cheap, so you take as you wish, and if you don’t, it’s your personal business (and loss). You might have a one-party system, and restrictions on free speech, but you come out of that system with one hell of an education and a free-floating sense of cultural entitlement. This feeling of owning culture and knowledge you take as a given, along with the fear to speak up.
Then you move around a bit and see that people in the developed world, the proverbial cool kids, generally don’t share your feelings at all. They are free to speak up. But culture and education is bought and paid for, and your share depends on your status and pocket. So someone keeping culture and knowledge for themselves, and not letting others in, does not come as a shock to them, it’s their given.
The problem is, you don’t fight givens.
So maybe one gets a two-party system. Binary is a step up, I guess. And then there is freedom of speech. But how can you use it to the full if you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Or what the people on the pulpits are talking about. Because real education and in-depth insight into history has been denied you, en masse, as was the actual agency of culture.
There are pockets of places in the world that are an exception to this rule, but they are few, and very often, far too insular.
This is now a prevailing pattern across the globe, it’s the prevailing social system. Neocolonialism won.
Yet one peaceful and essential thing a loser can do is make the winner feel less smug. Expose the mask, rock the boat, observe, see what happens.
We have a society of spectators. Stars and fans. Outsiders wanting to get in, and insiders keeping them out. Often with invisible fences, because real ones are bad optics. Culture is now solely a product to be traded, not human heritage to be shared, as well. Access to culture became property, and we all know how capitalism feels about property.
Social exclusion has many faces, the most obvious ones are the ones least discussed. For example, why is the audience cordoned off so that the performers and informers can pass by? Are they to serve the public, or to rule it?
If they say they are inviting you in, walk in. See what happens.