Dairy-Free at the Berlinale
When a big international film festival takes away dairy milk, how do its attendees react? By not really noticing, it turns out.
BY DELPHINE SAINT-JEAN • MAR 15, 2023
The Berlinale is one of the most recognizable film festivals in the world. So, imagine my surprise when I visit the red carpet and don’t see a single famous person drinking a frosty glass of milk. I’m more confused when I realize no one is sneaking spoonfuls of yogurt either, or snacking on slices of stracciatella--two totally normal things movie stars do at highly publicized film events.
I suspect something is going on here, and I need to get to the bottom of it.
The stunt, I discover (wink wink), is that Oatly and the Berlinale removed dairy from all official festival events--both as a statement against climate change and to prove that its presence is actually pretty meaningless.
In a stupor, I mill through the great and the good of the film industry. Surrounded by black bow ties, shimmering evening gowns, and opinions that range from new wave to Giallo, I begin to wonder, “What’s the people’s reaction to the total lack of dairy-based anything? Are festival attendees as astonished by the omission as I am?”
“No, didn’t notice,” two women tell me after I approach them outside a film screening. I laugh awkwardly and stare in disbelief. “Why would it even matter?” says one classy gentleman, confused as to why he’s being interrupted while perusing film programs outside the ticket office.
The more people I ask, the more blank looks I get. A shrug from a man walking around with a clipboard and headset--maybe he’s too important to answer--is followed by an odd expression from a smartly dressed French woman in a camel coat. Wait, is that pity in her eyes?
“Yes, I drink milk,” another woman tells me as she hurries to a film meeting. “But I haven’t noticed that it’s not here at all.” But she must be annoyed by the lack of dairy now that she knows, right? “Since I didn’t notice, I obviously wasn’t annoyed by it,” she says, with a withering look. “Now, I really have to go.”
Sadly, it dawns on me: Perhaps the annoying factor here isn’t the absence of dairy. It’s me.
Soon, another strange thing starts happening. Though most people don’t notice that the Berlinale skipped dairy, they become positively enthusiastic about the news once I share it. A shocking turn of events, really. “I think it’s important,” says a Dutch woman. “People like my parents think they don’t like [oat drink], but they also haven’t tried it. They can be convinced.”
Did you notice the absence of dairy at this year’s Berlinale?
Survey of 75 Berlinale attendees
I eventually catch someone red-handed: an unassuming man holding a hot drink cup. If anyone can be my eye witness to the Berlinale’s dairy denial, it’s him. I chase him through crowds of filmgoers and catch up to ask my question, panting: “Did you notice that your drink doesn’t have dairy?” He turns to me with a casual demeanor and responds, “Oh yeah, I did. I just got this non-dairy hot chocolate.”
At last! And what does he think about the Berlinale’s earth-shattering decision to do away with dairy in an attempt to tear at the fabric of our society and upend the film industry? What’s his level of anger and disgust with this revelation? “Well, I just had [oat drink] instead,” he says before smiling and walking away.