The Berlin film fest's record female representation

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Lone Scherfig

The Danish director's latest film, "The Kindness of Strangers," will open the Berlin Film Festival's competition. Scherfig was among the filmmakers of the Dogme 95 movement with "Italian for Beginners" (2000), adding a light-hearted comedy to the mostly grim series of films. Her 2009 coming-of-age drama, "An Education," written by Nick Hornby, obtained three Oscar nominations and won 25 awards.

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Charlotte Rampling

The 2019 Honorary Golden Bear celebrates a career spanning five decades. From the 1960s to this day, Rampling has performed over 100 roles, including recent award-winning performances in "45 Years" (2015) and "Hannah" (2017). Working in French, Italian and English, she has always preferred challenging roles: "To discover what normal means, you have to surf a tide of weirdness," she once said.

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Juliette Binoche

While the actress has appeared in over 60 films, Binoche is perhaps best-known outside of France for her Oscar-nominated role in the romantic comedy "Chocolat" (2000). Yet the head of the Berlinale jury has cinematographic tastes that go beyond sugar-coated hits. She declined, for instance, a role in Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" to star instead in Krzysztof Kieslowski's cult "Three Colors: Blue."

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Diane Kruger

Crowned in Cannes for her performance in Fatih Akin's 2017 "In the Fade," the German-American actress will be among the celebrities walking Berlin's red carpet this year. She stars in the espionage thriller "The Operative," directed by Israeli filmmaker Yuval Adler. In the work screened out of competition, she portrays a Mossad agent sent to Tehran on an undercover mission.

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Agnieszka Holland

Seven titles among the 17 works in the 2019 competition were directed by women. Among them, renowned Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland will premiere "Mr. Jones," which tells the story of a journalist reporting on the famine in Stalin-era Ukraine. Holland's acclaimed Holocaust drama "Europa Europa" (1991) won the best film Golden Globe, while her TV directing credits including "The Wire."

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Isabel Coixet

The prolific Spanish director has been a Berlinale regular since her drama, "My Life Without Me," was nominated for a Golden Bear in 2003. Part of the jury in 2009, she opened the festival in 2015 with "Nobody Wants the Night," starring 2019 jury head, Juliette Binoche. Coixet is competing this year with "Elisa & Marcela," about a female couple who pioneered same-sex marriage in Spain in 1901.

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Angela Schanelec

Schanelec started her career onstage, and later established her reputation as one of the most renowned "Berlin School" filmmakers along with Christian Petzold and Thomas Arslan. At the festival this year, she is featured in the competition with "I Was at Home, But," about a teen disappearance, while her 1995 film "My Sister's Good Fortune" is in the Retrospective focused on German women directors.

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Agnes Varda

She was at the leading edge of the French New Wave in the 1950s and 60s, one of the most influential movements in cinema history. Now aged 90, the filmmaker is still incredibly active. Premiering at the Berlinale out of competition, her documentary "Varda by Agnes" offers insight into her eclectic oeuvre. Varda will also be honored with a special prize, the Berlinale Camera.

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Mariette Rissenbeek

After Dieter Kosslick's final edition this year, the managing director of German Films — the organization in charge of promoting the country's movies worldwide — will become the first woman to lead the Berlinale. Rissenbeek has been appointed executive director of the festival and will be sharing Kosslick's position with Carlo Chatrian, who's moving from Locarno to Berlin as artistic director.

10 women who will rock the 2019 Berlin Film Festival

Tilda Swinton

Another Berlin regular, Tilda Swinton, will again set the standard for cool on the red carpet in 2019. She appears in two films in the festival's loaded program: Joanna Hogg's "The Souvenir," which just won a top award at Sundance, is screened in the Panorama section; while the 1990 arthouse work "The Garden" is featured in the experimental Forum section.

With over 40 percent of competition entries directed by women, the Berlinale is setting a new benchmark for an A-list festival. And that's not the only way women's work is promoted at this year's festival of film.

Seven films among the 17 titles vying for Berlin's 2019 Golden Bear award have been directed by a woman. It's an unprecedented record for a leading film festival: Last year, Cannes had three; Venice had one. And the current Oscars' best picture nominations include none.

Women in the spotlight

The 2019 festival promises to highlight the work of women on a variety of levels. It kicks off on Thursday with Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig's The Kindness of Strangers. An initial member of the Dogme 95 movement, she also directed the award-winning An Education (2009).

The six-member festival jury in charge of picking the Golden and Silver Bears is headed by French actress Juliette Binoche. Her gender-balanced jury includes German actress Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann) as well as producer-director Trudie Styler (Freak Show).

Meanwhile, the Retrospective section, titled this year "Self-determined. Perspectives of Women Filmmakers," focuses on works by female directors of all genres from former East and West Germany, going back to the student movement of 1968 through the decade following the country's reunification in 1990.

Read moreThe 69th Berlinale: What you need to know

A scene from May Spils's "Go for It, Baby" ("Zur Sache, Schätzchen") from 1968, featuring in the all-women Retrospective section this year.

Finally, the 2019 honorary awards handed out on February 14 also recognize the work of two female icons of cinema, British acting legend Charlotte Rampling and French New Wave filmmaker Agnes Varda.

Incidentally, the trend is not completely new in Berlin. The festival's last two Golden Bears were awarded to women as well: Adina Pintilie for Touch Me Not in 2018 and Ildiko Enyedi for On Body and Soul. By contrast, the Cannes film festival has only ever once awarded the Palme d'Or to a female filmmaker — Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993.

Joining the gender-parity pledge

The Berlinale, renowned for addressing current political issues, will also be joining a gender-parity pledge that other festivals such as Cannes and Venice have already committed to in 2018.

The festival's director, Dieter Kosslick, will sign the pledge on February 9 at an event that will be followed by a talk on "gender, genre and big budgets" with US producer Gale Anne Hurd (Terminator, The Walking Dead), and Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute.

The pledge, launched in Cannes last year and initiated by the French organization "5050 by 2020," does not impose mandatory quotas, but calls festivals to commit to gender parity in its management and requires data transparency surrounding film submissions and programming committees.

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Read moreThe personal and the political at the 2019 Berlinale

A photo history of the Berlinale

Selfies, stars and fans on the red carpet

Berlin's film festival has upped the glitz and glamor in recent years, as attested by the timeline of fascinating images on show at a new exhibition, "Between the Films — A Photo History of the Berlinale." Here in 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio thrilled fans on the red carpet by stopping to take a few snapshots. In today's smartphone era, the camera he's holding already feels old school.

A photo history of the Berlinale

Berlin invites the world

In 1955, the Berlinale was held for the fifth time. Great sums were investing in publicity and marketing. Ten years after the end of World War II, the German Federal Republic wanted to show it was culturally anchored in the West. Posters promoting the festival were also widely present in communist East Berlin. World stars such as Peter Ustinov (pictured) contributed to the hype of the event.

A photo history of the Berlinale

Smiling despite the Cold War

In 1961, the Berlinale was still held at the end of June. While the instability of world politics was most directly felt in Berlin, Willy Brandt, then the city's mayor and later West German chancellor, was still beaming as he shook hands with Hollywood icon Jayne Mansfield (accompanied by her husband, Mickey Hargitay). Five months later, construction of the Berlin Wall would start.

A photo history of the Berlinale

Freezing in the summer?

The Berlinale was also held in 1962, despite the recently constructed Berlin Wall newly dividing the city. Photographer Heinz Köster took this shot of Hollywood star James Stewart in front of the Telefunken-Haus on Ernst-Reuter Square, a skyscraper completed in 1960. Berlin can still be chilly in the summer — at least that's the impression given by the way the actor is shivering.

A photo history of the Berlinale

Stars in a divided city

The Cold War was part of the picture at the Berlinale. Stars coming to the city, such as Italian diva Claudia Cardinale, would often pose in front of the Berlin Wall. A bizarre juxtaposition emerges from these shots, with the grinning glamour of Hollywood set against the backdrop of a divide that caused suffering for many people, not only in Berlin, but on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

A photo history of the Berlinale

A fresh wind

In the wake of the revolutionary movements of 1968, the Berlin film festival would also be transformed by a leftward shift that celebrated daring, auteur filmmaking. Ten years later, film critic Wolf Donner (pictured center), who took on the direction of the Berlinale in 1976, moved the film festival from June to February, giving it an edge over Cannes, which is held in May.

A photo history of the Berlinale

Preempting a new era

In 1988, the atmosphere of political change could again be felt in Berlin as Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika policies took hold, with Aleksandr Askoldov’s "The Commissar" screening after a long ban in the Soviet Union. Also that year, filmmaker Agnes Varda premiered two films starring Jane Birkin (pictured), the drama "Kung Fu Master" and the docudrama "Jane B. par Agnès V."

A photo history of the Berlinale

Back in reunified Berlin

After filming "One Two Three" in West Berlin in 1961 while the Wall was being built, director Billy Wilder returned to the German capital and its film festival over three decades later. He is shown here with Horst Buchholz, the lead actor of his Cold War film, the two standing in the slush in front of the Brandenburg Gate in February, 1993.

A photo history of the Berlinale

A new millennium on the red carpet

Dieter Kosslick became the festival director in 2001, giving a new impetus to the venerated celebration of film. A promoter of German cinema, he also boosted the level of glamour on the red carpet and brought more color to the festival. He personally accompanies guest stars to their film premieres, and often wears his trademark black hat — as he is pictured here alongside Judi Dench in 2007.

A photo history of the Berlinale

The festival's photographers

The "Between the Films – A Photo History of the Berlinale" exhibition — on show at the German Cinematheque in Berlin from September 28, 2018 through May 5, 2019 — is also a tribute to the work of the festival's press photographers. Erika Rabau, shown here taking a well-earned nap at the 1995 festival, was the Berlinale's official photographer from 1972 until shorty before her death in 2016.

The future is 50/50

Actually, the German festival will not have to change much about its current organization to fulfill the pledge's requirements. Kosslick revealed ahead of the 2019 Berlinale that over 53 percent of the people involved in picking the competition films were women, adding that the selection committees for most of the festival's sections already boast a female majority.

Berlin is also set to become the first major festival with a woman at its head. Kosslick, who is stepping down after 18 years as the Berlinale's director, will be replaced by a managing duo: Mariette Rissenbeek has been appointed to take over as executive director, while Carlo Chatrian will lead the curatorial decisions of the festival as its artistic director.

Kosslick has announced that the two incoming co-directors will accompany him on the red carpet as he launches his final Berlinale on February 7.