The Berlin film festival, which began this week, will be the last to be directed by Moritz de Hadeln after 22 years as its head.
De Hadeln, who is Swiss, was unexpectedly told by the festival's board of directors last year that his contract was being terminated. When it was announced, the decision was strongly condemned by the European film community.
Pierre-Henri Deleau, head of the annual European Film Forum in Strasbourg, referred to him as "a man who has worked to discover and showcase films which, without him, would probably never have got beyond their national borders. He is a European who has succeeded in imposing a vision of the world through cinema."
As for de Hadeln himself, he said in an interview shortly before this year's festival that the decision to terminate his contract had been a purely political one. "It was taken by someone who wanted to replace me by one of his friends," he was quoted as saying.
The film world's respect for de Hadeln has been reflected by an invitation for him to make a personal choice of 23 films made during his tenure which will be screened during the festival.
It was a difficult choice. "It's almost impossible to choose only some 20 films out of the 700 shown in the competition section over the last 20 years," he said.
"A film can be a favourite for many different reasons, either because of the particular interest of its subject or for its unusual aesthetic, a remarkable performance or even because its soundtrack, photography or editing are unique."
Born in England in 1940, de Hadeln received one of Germany's highest distinctions in September, the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit. A former filmmaker, he is the founder of the documentary film festival at Nyon near Geneva, and a former director of the Locarno festival.
Earlier this year he and his wife Erika founded a film consultancy in Berlin, which among other things is aimed at discovering new talents for the industry and promoting co-production deals between Europe and Asia.
by Richard Dawson