Berlinale 2024: Inside the Martin Scorsese press conference

A Martin Scorsese press conference at the Berlinale? Chaos can only ensue
A Martin Scorsese press conference at the Berlinale? Chaos can only ensue Copyright David Mouriquand/euronews
Copyright David Mouriquand/euronews
By David Mouriquand
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Martin Scorsese comes to the Berlin Film Festival to receive his honorary Golden Bear. We were at the press conference...


There’s little need to introduce Martin Scorsese at this point.

The director behind Taxi Driver, Raging Bull,Goodfellas, Casino, The Wolf of Wall Street recently became the most nominated filmmaker at the Oscars with Killers of the Flower Moon.

To say he's cinema royalty at this point is a little like saying coffee goes well with cigarettes, that Lozenges are Tom Waits' natural enemy, or that the Spice Girls fell apart without Geri. Evidences.

The legendary filmmaker is at the Berlin Film Festival this year to receive an honorary Golden Bear, and we weren’t about to miss out on one of his only press moments of the festival...

2:30: I get here stupidly early and there's already a small, eight-person queue. I bump into a friend of mine who got here even earlier, and engages me in conversation.  We chat about the highlights of our festival so far. Three minutes in, a rude, Fabien Barthez-looking Scorsese stan with daggers for eyes interrupts the ongoing conversation.

"You do know you're going to have to go to the back of the queue right? You can't just stay with this guy. Not for this press conference."

"No no, he can stay," replies my colleague.

"No, he can't. He doesn't even know you."

Putting aside that I've known him for about 6 years, which is apparently not long enough, it was never my intention of skipping the queue. Having grown up in the UK, there are certain things you just don't do.

Not wishing to create an incident, considering this fanboy has clearly been waiting his entire lifetime for the opportunity to see the 81-year-old director, I say my goodbyes and head to the back - which is just four people behind milk-of-human-kindness over here. No biggie. Still, no laughing matter, this one. But after the Spielberg event last year, I expected passions would run high.

2:42: My mind starts its usual strange dance - does one ever really know anyone?

Leave it be, David.

More topically, what's my favourite Scorsese film?

I think Cape Fear was the first one I saw. Taxi Driver and King of Comedy spring to mind, obviously. I have very fond memories of Bringing Out The Dead with Nic Cage. That's an underrated one.

They're showing 2006’s The Departed tonight at the Palast to hand the director his honorary golden bear. That's got to be up there. Not The Irishman though – still can’t get with that one.

2:53: How did Mark Wahlberg's Staff Sergeant Dignam figure out that Matt Damon's Sullivan was the rat in The Departed? It's always bothered me. Dignam was suspended until he returned to murder Sullivan right at the last minute. There wasn't anyone still alive who had proof of Sullivan's connection to Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello. So how did he know??

3:25: Still queuing, and replaying The Departed in my mind. 

Isn't the life of a film critic exciting?


The current thing I'm focusing on is Matt Damon's character. Do we think Sullivan might be in the closet? Anyone who spouts that amount of homophobic slurs clearly has something to hide. Speaking of hiding, his whole character is about hiding in plain sight. Next time I watch it, which won't be tonight since I have reviews to catch up on, I'm going to focus on any subtext that may lead to convincing me that Sullivan is a closeted gay man.

As you can imagine, I'm a laugh a minute when it comes to kicking back for movie night.

Queueing - Isn't the life of a film critic exciting?
Queueing - Isn't the life of a film critic exciting?David Mouriquand

3:30: They still haven't opened the press conference room and the line is growing. Why am I here? It's been an hour already. I could be watching another film, which is technically why we're all here at the Berlinale. I could be getting a review out of the way... But no. I'm sandwiched between Italian journalists who, from what I can make out, are talking about what questions to ask Marty. They are delightful though – I hope they get the mic later.

3:37: The security guards are starting to get busy. That's some progress. One journalist is currently using her phone as a mirror to better use her eyelash curlers. Those always looked like a medieval torture device to me, so fair play to you, madam.

3.53: "Ladies and gentlemen, we're about to open the doors. One person, one chair." Seems simple enough. Let's see how this goes.


3:55: The mad dash begins. These things really do remind you of the worst the profession has to offer at times. But I'm part of the problem by contributing to this nonsense, so more fool me. I've secured a central spot on the second row. My editor would be proud. It’s all for his approval, really.

4:05: I wonder if Marty has names for his glorious eyebrows. This is where I'm at. Clearly delirium is setting in. My editor would be less proud.

Awaiting Marty...
Awaiting Marty...David Mouriquand

4:07: Some very excited grownups are already taking pictures of themselves in front of the stage where Scorsese and outgoing Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian's name tags are.

4:20: It's getting very loud in here. It's jammers but there's a distinct lack of drama or insults. Every seat is taken, and there are rows of journos standing at the back behind the cameras. It’s actually quite impressive.

Every seat is taken
Every seat is takenDavid Mouriquand

4:26: Like Spielberg's press conference last year, I’m nervously anticipating this one. There weren't too many cringey questions for The Beard, so hopefully there won't be too many for Eyebrows. However, press conferences are where film critics lose all common sense. You would not believe the amount of hilariously awful questions that get asked at these things. It’s a chance to share a space with A-list actors and directors, and some journalists can't help but cream themselves and use these get-togethers as a platform to make themselves feel important or look good. They rarely do. Still, hope springs eternal.


4:35: I love how Scorsese gets a colourful booster cushion. That's nice. He's deserved it.

Great directors get great booster cushions at press conferences
Great directors get great booster cushions at press conferencesDavid Mouriquand

4:50: The main man arrives - in a dashing blue suit and that signature smile that could light up a room. He's bang on time, so thank you Marty for making this already very long afternoon a little less painful.

I'm ditching the Captain's log schtick and will stick to his best quotes and replies...

It all starts off sweetly enough. A journalist invites him to Georgia and thanks him for the person she is today. The fan (because it’s fandom, not journalism at this point) invites him to share some glorious Georgian wine (and it is glorious) and asks him how he would describe himself in one word.

“A mystery,” he replies with a big grin.


Scorsese then goes on to reflect on how watching international films when he was younger, from Satyajit Ray or Akira Kurosawa, helped expand his understanding of the world and his empathy for people far from his New York neighbourhood.

“Maybe, similar kids around the world might see a film and be affected by it; they might not make films or anything, but it could change their lives,” he said.

That Scorsese smile
That Scorsese smileDavid Mouriquand

There is a ludicrous amount of clapping, wooping and laughing at pretty much everything Marty says. Granted, he’s cinema Jesus for many, but this crowd is in full fawning mode, lapping up everything he says. If he passed gas at this point, I’m sure he’d get a standing ovation.

Don’t get me wrong, everything he says is lovely – he’s articulate and insightful, and I could listen to him and his comments on film conservation for hours. But the overly deferential reaction he gets for practically every comment feels a little grating, to be honest.

A touching moment does come when the director mentions the impermanence of life.


“I’m very sad about the impermanence of life, but it doesn’t have to be that impermanent so soon. People say the whole world’s going to die and I know we’re heading toward the sun or the moon or something, but in the meantime, we’re all here. So let’s communicate. Let’s communicate through art.”

When asked if there are any young directors who Scorsese is inspired by (one of the rare sensible questions during this press conference), he replies:

“At 81, time is an issue. I need to select the films I watch. There’s Celine Song’s Past Lives, Wim’s film Perfect Days...”

Both fine choices.

“I try to keep up as much as I can.”


You’re lovely, Marty. Just lovely.

Scorsese and Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian
Scorsese and Berlinale artistic director Carlo ChatrianDavid Mouriquand

When asked if cinema could be dying, Scorsese says: "Cinema isn’t dying - it’s just transforming. It was never was meant to be just one thing. We were used to it being one thing. Growing up, if you wanted to see a movie you went to a theatre. It was always a communal experience.”

He continues: “But the technology’s changed so rapidly and exhaustedly, that in a sense the only thing you can really hold onto is the individual voice. The individual voice, I must say, can express itself on TikTok or can express itself on a four-hour film or a two-hour miniseries.”

“I don’t think we should let the technology scare us,” he concludes. “Don’t become a slave to the technology — let us control the technology and put it in the right direction. The right direction being from the individual voice, rather than something that is just consumed and tossed away.”

Then comes the highlight of the press conference.


A 21-year-old Bulgarian journalist brazenly takes a break from asking a question to the legendary director by showing a prop he printed out – the scene from The Departed when Jack Nicholson shouts “This isn’t reality TV” – and saying that he can do a great impression of Nicholson.

He then proceeds to re-enact the scene – shouting and all.

I’m serious. Marty is being a sport about it, while Chatrian looks amused now, but couldn't hide the fact that he was dying inside a few seconds ago. 

It’s a glorious train crash, as the impression is about as convincing as Ray Charles auditioning for sniper school. But fair play to the young fan. I did not have that chutzpah at his age.

You talkin' to me?
You talkin' to me?David Mouriquand

“I can’t believe I’m speaking to Martin Scorsese...” starts one question.


One half of my brain turns off immediately. You’re not speaking with Martin Scorsese – you’re supposed to be asking him a semi-coherent question, and holding the rest of us hostage.

Asked about his favourite 30-second moment, Scorsese jokes, “You mean in cinema?”

Cue more rapturous laughing, and I can’t deny I’ve checked out by this point.

Before the press conference ends, Marty does give an update on his upcoming Jesus film, the tentatively titled A Life of Jesus.

“I’m contemplating it right now. What kind of film I’m not quite sure, but I want to make something unique and different that could be thought-provoking and I hope also entertaining. I’m not quite sure yet how to go about it,” he says


“The possibilities of making a film, the concept of Jesus, the idea of Jesus really stems from my background growing up in the Lower East Side, my interest in Catholicism, in the priesthood, which really led I think, ultimately to the film Silence.”

And then it all ends, and I’m left with the feeling that this encounter has not changed my life.

Clocking in at 35 minutes long, I can’t help but feel that at least some of the questions at these things should be screened in advance. Scorsese’s answers were terrific – the questions, much less so.

My queuing friend tells me afterwards that his neighbour left early, deeming the questions to be “too damn fucking stupid” to stick around for.

That’s fair. The bar is low. It usually always is.


Oh, and in case you were wondering, Fabien Barthez from the queue was sitting on the same row as me, with a less impressive corner sightline. This isn't a "in the end I had the last laugh" - just a reminder that no matter how seriously and passionately you take things, be kind to others and stay polite. 

And watch international films. Whether it’s Kurosawa or whoever, cinema is an empathy machine, and Marty’s right – it could change lives. At the end of the day, no matter how predictably sycophantic the press conferences are, festivals like the Berlinale are what it’s all about – communicating through art, broadening horizons through films, and maybe – just maybe – changing a few lives along the way.

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