The artistic director of Berlinale, Carlo Chatrian, dropped in at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, revealing his favourite Bollywood movie, discussing films, friendships and more!
HELLO!: Carlo, welcome to India! What brings you to Jio MAMI in Mumbai?
Carlo Chatrian: “It’s my first time in India. After three years of the pandemic where travel was restricted, when Deepti DCunha [artistic director of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival] invited me, I said yes. We have Meenakshi Shedde here as well, who is [a Berlin Film Festival] delegate in India. In our last edition we showcased over 20 Indian films, including Bollywood movies! I also came out of a personal interest to meet filmmakers, producers and understand the culture here.”
H!: You’ve been the artistic director of the Berlin International Film Festival since 2019. What inspired you to pursue a career in film?
CC: “I studied films back in Italy in the ’90s, though at the time, it was a part of literature. I graduated from the University of Torino which is in north-west Italy—with a thesis on the films of the French filmmaker Jacques Rivette. My passion for cinema began by attending festivals at this time. I started writing reviews for magazines and that was the beginning of the process that brought out my desire to share the films that I watched with others.”
H!: Recently, you announced that you would be stepping down from your role at Berlinale. How does it feel to have received the support of over 400 prominent global filmmakers, including luminaries such as Martin Scorsese and M. Night Shyamalan, requesting your continued leadership?
CC: “The letter in support of me was overwhelming. I had a mandate for five years, it is over and it was a political decision to have a different governance. Regardless, I’m quite confident that the festival will maintain its international dimension.”
H!: What can we expect from your last edition?
CC: “I don’t have anything to prove. I enjoy doing my job. I take pleasure in finding hidden gems and supporting filmmakers who make them, especially in the case of independent cinema.”
H!: Since you’re currently in the heart of Bollywood, we must ask—have you had a chance to dive into Hindi cinema?
CC: “One Hindi film that’s dear to me because we introduced it, is Gangubai Kathiawadi. It’s the kind of film that we look for—entertaining but with a strong concept and a political idea.”
H!: As someone who’s been in this industry for decades, give us the inside scoop about a particularly memorable moment in your career.
CC: “Couple decades, yes, I’m quite old (laughs). I was in Tokyo recently and I met a filmmaker whose work I have introduced to the industry—Ryusuke Hamaguchi. While many recognise him for the Oscar he won for Drive My Car, his breakout film, Happy Hour, was introduced in Locarno [Film Festival]. A highlight though, would be when we got Bono from U2 to present an award to Steven Spielberg in our last edition in Berlin!”
H!: From the pandemic to the rise of OTT platforms, has the consumption and perception of cinema changed as a whole?
CC: “The way people consume films has definitely changed but the cinematic experience is still about going to the theatre. Plus, after the pandemic, people like to gather and these festivals give them a reason to do so. The emotion, the joy of watching a film with people you don’t know is magical. And festivals show films that aren’t necessarily crowd-pleasers; they challenge your perspective and push boundaries.”
H!: Has any film challenged your perspective personally?
CC: “Hiroshima, Mon Amour by Alain Resnais, it’s timeless.”
H!: You’ve mentioned in older interviews that it’s essential for a programmer to travel. Of all the places you’ve visited, which do you hope to visit again?
CC: “It is by breathing the air in different places that you understand cultures better. Each place has its own identity. Berlin is quite cold at this time of the year, so I’m enjoying the warmth of Mumbai. Latin America is also dear to me. But I want to go to a place I’ve never been to before.”
H!: Take us through a typical day in your life.
CC: “I’m from a mountainous area in Italy so I like hiking to refresh my mind and body. I like to run, swim and used to play football when I was younger. Berlin is a flat city so I bike to go to work. In our office, we have an in-house cinema so we watch films there. Some days there are many meetings, but I reach home, eat dinner and then watch some more! Every year I watch 600-700 films. I also like to read. I recently found out that there’s a literature film festival happening where an Italian company is performing a piece on [Italo] Calvino. I love his book, Invisible Cities.”
H!: Could you recommend a film or TV series you believe is perfect for binge-watching?
CC: “A well-known series from Germany is Babylon Berlin. As for a movie, I love Afire by Christian Petzold—he’s definitely one of the most gifted storytellers today.”
H!: We know you’re here for a short trip, but have you had the chance to try some Indian dishes?
CC: “I loved the Madras curry. All the recipes are completely unknown to me so I have to ask what it’s about but all the dishes have such a wide range of flavours; it’s very telling of how India is made up of a number of cultures.”
H!: If you weren’t a part of the film industry, what alternate career would you pick and why?
CC: “Back in 2007-2008 a few friends and I started a co-operative for gardening, which was great personally, but financially, it was a total disaster! (Laughs) People like me who only work with their intellect need to connect with the earth.”
H!: As you step into the next chapter of your career, what lies ahead?
CC: “The next step is to curate the best edition for the Berlin International Film Festival in 2024. After that, we’ll see. The future is open!”
Photos: Erik weiss
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s November 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!