Berlinale 2019: A Look at the Various Sections Beyond Competition

One needs to remember that Berlinale is more than just the competition.

4 min read
A glimpse from the Berlin Film Festival 2019.

"Sexy, edgy and aggressive”

That is how I described Berlinale in my previous blog. I talked about the selection process. Most people want to be part of the competition. But one needs to remember that Berlinale is more than just the competition. Festivals are the new distribution. The opportunities that they offer are not limited to appreciation.

That’s what makes Berlinale special. It not only offers one of the largest audiences during the ten day festival, it also offers marketing and distribution opportunities.

Paakhi at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.
Paakhi at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.
(Photo: Paakhi A Tyrewala)
There are five sections/categories – apart from the coveted competition section – that you can be part of:  Panorama, Forum, Forum Expanded, Generation and Shorts.


Competition is easy to comprehend. The entries for competition can be picked from any of the categories, but once in Competition, they can’t be part of other section. The highest priority is given to this section. It is obviously the most prestigious as it means the film is amongst the best of the best; it comprises feature-length films yet to be released outside their country of origin. Films compete for several prizes, but it’s frankly prestigious enough just to be part of this category at Berlinale.


Panorama  comprises of new, independent and arthouse films that deal with “controversial subjects or unconventional aesthetics."

Films in this category are intended to provoke discussion. What I understood is that Panorama focuses on films which are pushing the envelope, blurring boundaries, making political statements while retaining a structure of ‘storytelling’, however unconventional.

Panorama aims to reach out to wider audience. In that sense, it’s more ‘classical’ than Forum, but when dealing with Berlinale one has to understand the word ‘classical’ cannot be used in classical sense. I use it merely as a comparative word to give you an idea of a difference between Panorama and Forum.

A glimpse from the Berlin Film Festival 2019.
A glimpse from the Berlin Film Festival 2019.
(Photo: Paakhi A Tyrewala)


Forum is more abstract and adventurous. It comprises of experimental and documentary films from around the world. It does tend to be partial to screening works by younger filmmakers (not to be confused with younger ‘people’).

There are no format or genre restrictions. In the words of Michael Stutz, Curator Panorama, “Forum does not care about story or politics. It is only about cinema.” The selections on this platform paves the way to answer the question, “What else can be Cinema, or what else can Cinema be?”

These works are difficult to comprehend for someone like myself, who is completely driven by ‘stories’ and ‘narratives’ for my cinema. My aim was to watch more films which come under Forum.

Forum Expanded

Forum Expanded is exactly what the name suggests. It is questioning and redefining what is Cinema. It aims to includes exhibitions, visual arts and installation as part of the ‘cinematic’ experience, providing it with broader artistic definition. I suspect even the Festival is not very clear about this section yet – especially since it deals with the abstract and obscure – but I have dirty feeling it’s going to catch on in the coming years.


Generation accommodates content that is relevant to children and young adults. It is interesting that Berlinale does not lower its standards for Generation. When it comes to content, the ideology, relevance and expectations remain as rigorous.


Shorts is self-evident, I think? Shorter films, equally exacting standards.

The path to reach Berlinale does not stop if you are not selected. You can still be a part of it (in a parallel universe as I like to call it).


The EFM (European Film Market), a film trade fair, is held simultaneously to Berlinale. It is a major industry meeting for the international film circuit. The trade fair serves distributors, film buyers, producers, financiers and co-production agents. Special screenings are held for market where you can show your film.

Paakhi at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.
Paakhi at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.
(Photo: Paakhi A Tyrewala)

This brings me to the end of this blog. Just knowing about these categories triggered so many ideas. Hope it does the same for you. There is much more to tell. The programmes they hold, Visitors program, Berlinale talent, then there are funds that you can apply for… but I just crossed my word limit, so I guess it will have to be another time.

(Paakhi A. Tyrewala is a filmmaker who is part of a special delegation at the Berlin International Film Festival. She is sending special despatches on her experience at understanding the prestigious festival.)

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