|A couple of months ago, an email
trickled through the web to our
film company, 18th Street Films, that
said “...your film has been selected for
the Berlin International Film Festival.”
We were delighted. After all, the Berlinale
– which takes place from February 7 -
17 – is one of the leading festivals on
the international film festival calendar.
It was a tremendous vote of confidence
for War Child, a documentary about the
tumultuous and ultimately hopeful life
of Emmanuel Jal, a former Sudanese
child soldier turned hip-hop star with a message
of peace. The film was three years in the making
and was shot all over South Sudan (including
its oil fields), the Nairobi slums, and the refugee
camps on the Kenya/Sudan border as well as in
New York, New Orleans, and Washington.
From left: Director Karim Chrobog, Emmanuel Jal, Rick Boden, Afshin Molavi, and
Nels Bangerter at the premiere of War Child at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival.
| There was little time for celebration,
however, because we were deep in the middle
of a final edit. Over the next two months, we
crashed until we had a final cut, movie posters,
and flyers. A few days before the festival, we
flew to Berlin, high-definition tapes in hand.
||On February 10, the red carpet
was rolled out. Dozens of friends and
family from Washington and around
the world had flown in. Cameras
flashed. The 600-seat Babylon Theater
was packed; people sat in the aisles.
The lights dimmed. The movie played.
People laughed, cried, and cheered.
Ninety-four minutes later, the film
received a standing ovation.
Once the bright lights had gone
down, it was time to get down to
business. We worked the booths at the
European Film Market, the gathering point
of buyers, sellers, distributors and agents. This
is the less glamorous side of film-making but
nevertheless a key ingredient of the festival.
More festivals are to follow this year and
hopefully one will come near you.