Production Diary

Day 244: Berlinale! by


Berlin. It’s interesting to be back in the same city, same hotel, same film festival, 7 years since I was here with Forty Shades of Blue, which was a personal low point, as depicted in the film I’m showing tonight, Keep the Lights On. The darkest hours can produce light it seems. I’ve just taken a shower, picked out my shirt, and will head in 10 minutes down to the lobby to meet my sister, Dana, who has come to the screening from Budapest, where she and her family are living for the semester. We will then meet up with Thure and Zach, a team of producers, and Thimios, in from Greece, for our European premiere. Films always play differently in different contexts, so I am going to sit in on this screening and see how it varies from Sundance.

But the nervousness is not there in the same way. It feels more like being beside a quiet stream, being at this festival. I was first here in 1996 with The Delta, which didn’t get invited, but was playing at the Market. I was back in 2005, and then in 2010 with a short film, Last Address. So, I know the routine, if not the city. I have never been here except in February, when it is cold and icy, and the wind blows strong. They tell me it’s a very beautiful city in the spring, and the summer. I wouldn’t know, unfortunately.

Now is the next morning. Not enough sleep and I still feel the wine from last night. Great screening in Cinemaxx 7, with its beautiful projection and sound, audience of nearly 400, who stay patiently after the film for the Q&A. The moderator begins with a whopper: should people stay together this long in a relationship that isn’t working? He continues with a range of emotional questions for me, for Thimios, for Thure and Zach. In the room are a number of old friends, Danny Torres from New York, and Matt Antezzo, who I knew 25 years ago, and haven’t seen since. Outside afterwards, we gather in the cold. My sister Dana is trying to hold back her tears: she is very emotional. It makes sense that she has an intimacy with the story, but I look forward to understanding the details of her emotion.

I play Poppa and get everyone in cabs and off to Tin, a restaurant recommended to me by my Berliner friend Karim Ainouz, who I trust with restaurants. Lucas and I have been in contact with the owner, created a menu, hope that it all turns out fine. It’s slightly stressful to throw a party for 25 in a city you don’t know, but it is a warm family – including actual cousins of mine Adam and Lele Hohenberg – and our gang of actors and producers, with Ali Betil and Lucas and Marie Therese, now on our second festival together, are like a comfortable family. Thure and Zach behave like old close friends; they have a language and lots of laughter together that sometimes I am a part of, sometimes I watch from across the room. The dinner is long, and the food is good, and we end at 3am with a few of us drinking special shots of something that are handed out by the nice woman who runs the place. At the bar a man approaches me and tells me he had designed the poster for Married Life. Another man had been at the screening, and thanks us for the film. It is one of the nicest nights. I’m feeling very warm about things it seems. My only hope is that I get a chance to see the Gerhard Richter show before I exit.

Ira Sachs

writer, director, blogger

Ira Sachs is a writer and director based in New York City. His films include Married Life (2007), The Delta (1997) and the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning Forty Shades of Blue. His most recent film, Last Address, a short work honoring a group of NYC artists who died of AIDS, has been added to the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA and played at the 2011 Venice BIennale. Sachs teaches in the Graduate Film department at NYU and is a fellow at both the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He is also the founder and co-curator of Queer/Art/Film, a monthly series held at the IFC Center in New York, as well as the newly established Queer/Art/Mentorship, a program that pairs and supports mentorship between queer working artists in NYC.

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