Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin

HIGH CULTURE – The Sputnik Cinema turns 25


Open screening night at the Sputnik (source: KinoNews)

It is small, it is cosy and it is high: this week SPUTNIK KINO in Hasenheide 54, placed in the 5th floor officially the highest cinema in Berlin, is beginning the 11-day-long celebrations of its 25th birthday.

 1984 was the year when the Stadtsanierung (city redevelopment) project managers, keen on updating heavily damaged post-war Kreuzberg landscape, decided to swing their demolition ball in the old Höfe am Südstern. The complex of four industrial courtyards hidden behind elegant middle class residential houses stretches between 15-17 Körterstrasse and in 54 Hasenheide Street. Today it is one of the best examples of typical Berlin and Kreuzberg mixture of the residential and the industrial: the front houses were for living while the courtyards were thrumming with the sound of workshops and small factories spitting out endless rows of oil lamps, pianos, silk flowers, sewing machines and printed fabrics.

 At the beginning of the 1980s, however, Höfe am Südstern were in the same bad state like most of Kreuzberg´s old architecture. And if it had not been for the people like the “Sputnik Kollektiv” from Berlin-Wedding and their likes who presented a convincing and sensible idea how to utilise the buildings, they would have been history by now. Luckily, a plan to open a small, homey cinema took off and both the Höfe and the Sputnik Kino can celebrate their silver anniversary.

 During the last 25 years Sputnik counted 73,000 film screenings divided over 9,125 screening days. Next to the best-sellers, admittedly few however, it keeps showing films that other – bigger, more commercial – cinemas would frown upon or entirely overlook.

 To make sure that its offer is different from your average Berlin cinema´s and to help new film-makers find access to their future audience, on every third Wednesday of the month it runs the Open Screening night. From 8.00 PM (and for free!) the cinema´s guests can let themselves be thrilled and surprised. The film-makers, who do not need to get their work registered before the screening, must follow one written rule only: no longer than 25 minutes, please. That feels like perfectly long to impress and convince and short enough not to leave any permanent damage. This tradition has been kept up for the past five years.

 The Sputnik with its very Kreuzbergian flair – the brick-edged seat tiers in Kinosaal1 with charming double seats for couples, the sofa-and-armchair landscape in Kinosaal2 or the 1950´s yellow bar counter that migrated to Hasenheide from the legendary WMF club – is the apple of the eye of many Berlin cinema-goers. Simple and unpretentious, it welcomes anyone tough enough to climb the many a flight of stairs that lead to its seat. Once up there, however, you can enjoy a great film, a cool drink and an amazing view of the Kiez from the large windows in the foyer. Back in 2001 you could also enjoy a ciggie with your beer while watching Being John Malkovich from a sofa but that´s, alas, in the past now.

 As for the future, the time to celebrate is coming. As of tomorrow, November  20th the Sputnik is inviting all fans and those who don´t know yet that they belong to this group to the birthday series of concerts, parties and, what else?, film screenings.

 At 10.00 PM on Thursday, November 21st come and see Pink Floyd´s The Wall. You have already seen it? Not like this, you didn´t. At the Sputnik the films are not shown – the are feasted upon. And not to forget: for the very acceptable prize of 5 Euros you will be equipped with a bottle of beer (or lemonade) to hold onto while watching.

 For many Berlin fans the greatest film feast will be taking place on Saturday, though. At 9.00 PM on November 23rd the excellent band Trontheim will provide live musical accompaniment to the Mother of all Berlin film classics, Ruttman´s Simfonie der Großstadt from 1927. No other movie shows German capital before the WW2 with so much tender honesty, fantasy and such searing melancholy. To see it at the Sputnik with live music on a November night must be as close to seeing it on the same night in the 1927 Berlin as you can get. Tickets might still be available.

 From Saturday on every day will bring another event for and at the Geburtstagskind. Among them a film première, a concert, a horror movie and a public reading. And tomorrow´s Open Screening session Testbild will ring the gong for the curtain to go up.

And the cherry on top of the Sputnik´s birthday cake? The Medienboard Berlin /Brandenburg (Wikipedia explains: “the body responsible for Film Funding and Media Business Development in the states of Berlin and Brandenburg“ and the first address for all international film-makers, like Tarantino or Polansky, wishing to film in B/B) awarded the little cinema from the 5th floor in Kreuzberg with their main prize in the category cinema programme. With the 12,000 Euros of an award they might even be finally able to fullfill Sputnik´s manager´s, Andrea Stosiek´s private little dream: a lift.

To see the full programme for the next 11 days, please visit the page

2 comments on “HIGH CULTURE – The Sputnik Cinema turns 25

  1. berlioz1935
    Nov 19, 2013

    I like the voice of your essays. It seems Australian with a, of course, Kreuzberg accent. I passed this on on to my daughter, a cinema buff who might turn up in Berlin one day. Keep it up.

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