UK Students Studying in Berlin
Despite its prestigious and historically themed namesake, the Berlin-based UFA (Urchin Studios Film Center) is an up-and-coming outfit, straightly plugging into Bertelsmann, Europe’s leading media conglomerate. More than 100 under-aged children from various countries participated in the grand event at the famous Ladywood Arts and Leisure Center, organised by The Children’s Society in collaboration with the German Film Institute. The Berlin film festival was also covered by Al Jazeera English. The documentary gave an impressive insight into the inner workings of a multi-million pound media company, which prides itself on its commitment to documentary production. And it certainly didn’t hurt that star recruit Adeel Chowdhry gave his speech in fluent Urdu.
The film made it clear that UFA is one of Germany’s most ambitious, and successful film companies, operating on the principles of transparency and accountability. The film crew even used traditional hand held and camera phones, to capture their journey around Berlin and other major districts. The result was not only an engrossing and impressive mini documentary but also a timely window into a fascinating and intriguing culture whose influences go far beyond Europe’s borders.
Perhaps most significantly, UFA endeavours to engage young people from a diverse range of international backgrounds. According to the film maker, Alexander Linden, UFA strives “to encourage international students to participate actively and constructively in our society, and to contribute to our increasingly important German community”. As the student programmes and events reflect this approach, it is clear that UFA is aware of its strategic position as a hub for European film. So successful has the programme become, that it has launched a number of similar programmes in response to the growing need for international students in Germany.
Linden stressed that the success of the programme is at least partly down to the capital’s willingness to support creative students and filmmakers. “Berlin is absolutely committed to supporting new, emerging and indigenous talent and artists, and to providing the infrastructure that is essential to facilitate that creativity. “The success of UFA and its programmes is therefore linked not just to the success of students, but to the city and its willingness to take a positive and proactive attitude towards culture as a whole.” The programme director went on to say that while creating a positive international image was important for students, the real achievement was to be seen in their social and cultural activities.
He went on to emphasise the importance of maintaining strong ties between the academic community and the film industry. “We have some excellent opportunities for students in Berlin as well as throughout Germany. We’re at the beginning of what looks like a golden opportunity for film makers here. “We’re going to see a lot more of that as students from the UK continue to study and work in Berlin as well as those from other European countries taking advantage of the opportunities available in Berlin as well as in the surrounding region.” He went on to say that the success of UFA was dependent on maintaining a dialogue with the film industry, particularly German film makers.
The director went on to state that ” Films and programmes can only sustain themselves in a culture where people are open and willing to engage with them. So often in places where there is less interest or communication there is less interest in seeing films. “I think it’s critical in Berlin that students and visitors to see films. We need people to come and see films so that we can tell our stories and show people the film world isn’t all bleak and scary and that there are wonderful things happening and positive spaces to discover ourselves and create. That means supporting your students when they’re doing the programmes.” He went on to praise the growing numbers of British students studying in Germany.
The film festival runs over five days in March and is intended to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both participants and observers. The schedule is yet to be finalised, but already the buzz around UFA and its programme is tremendous with many national and international film festivals featuring projects and films that were not previously screened in Germany. It is also a chance for British students to travel abroad and make a real contribution to the international film industry.
The film festival will allow students to gain vital first-hand experience from people who are in the know about the highly competitive and dynamic film industry in Germany. They will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with top industry professionals, gain invaluable information from influential local contacts and attend many exclusive international film festivals. Not to mention the exposure that they will get as they network with film makers from all over the world. They could also make connections back home which could benefit their future careers.