Film festival: Berlinale: Criticism of statements critical of Israel at the gala

After the statements made by several filmmakers about the Middle East war at the Berlinale Gala, Berlin's Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) strongly criticized the event.

Film festival: Berlinale: Criticism of statements critical of Israel at the gala

After the statements made by several filmmakers about the Middle East war at the Berlinale Gala, Berlin's Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) strongly criticized the event. "What happened yesterday at the Berlinale was an intolerable relativization. Anti-Semitism has no place in Berlin, and that also applies to the art scene," he wrote on the X platform, formerly Twitter. Wegner, who was in the audience himself on Saturday evening, expects the new Berlinale management to ensure that “such incidents” do not happen again.

During the awards ceremony on Saturday evening, several award winners commented on the Gaza war in a way that caused criticism. According to critics, what was particularly striking was that those involved on stage made one-sided accusations against Israel without mentioning the terrorist attack by the Islamist Hamas on October 7, 2023.

At the beginning of the gala, the co-director of the Berlinale, Mariette Rissenbeek, made it clear that there was no place at the Berlinale for "hate speech, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and any form of discrimination." She described the Gaza war as a “humanitarian catastrophe.” "We call on Hamas to immediately release the hostages and we call on Israel to do everything possible to protect the civilian population in Gaza and ensure that lasting peace can return to the region. The fighting must stop."

Anti-Israel post on Instagram

On Sunday, the Berlinale also distanced itself from an anti-Israel Instagram post about the Middle East conflict that was previously published on an account from the Berlinale Panorama series. “These posts do not come from the festival and do not represent the attitude of the Berlinale,” said the Berlinale in its Instagram story on Sunday evening. “We immediately deleted it and launched an investigation into how this incident could have happened.” The film festival announced that it would file a criminal complaint against unknown persons.

On Sunday, screenshots from the account of the Panorama section of the Berlinale circulated on X, formerly Twitter. One photo featured the slogan "Free Palestine - From the River to the Sea." The sentence means that there should be a free Palestine in an area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean - where Israel is now located.

Protest notes on the stage

At the gala, which was characterized by political messages, a documentary won the most important prize, the Golden Bear, for the second time in a row on Saturday evening: the film "Dahomey" by the French-born director Mati Diop deals with the return of looted art.

This year's Berlinale was also particularly marked by political debates. Many filmmakers had already protested against right-wing extremism at the opening gala. Others called for an end to the fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. At the awards ceremony, several people on stage carried a note that read "Ceasefire Now."

Appeal from Palestinian filmmakers

Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra called on Germany to stop supplying weapons to Israel. The President of the German-Israeli Society, Volker Beck (Greens), then criticized the fact that this appearance had been applauded and left uncommented on the X platform (formerly Twitter). This was “a cultural, intellectual and ethical low point” for the Berlinale, Beck wrote.

Adra made the documentary “No Other Land” with three other filmmakers and won the documentary film award for it. The film is about the displacement of Palestinians in villages south of Hebron in the West Bank.

Sharp criticism also came from Green Party politician Konstantin von Notz after - elsewhere at the Berlinale gala - filmmaker Ben Russell spoke of "genocide" in connection with the Gaza war. "It's simply disgusting and a perfidious perpetrator-victim reversal. Such performances are unbearable," von Notz wrote on X.

Criticism also from Senator for Culture Chialo

The day after the award ceremony, Berlin's Senator for Culture Joe Chialo also had clear words: "Culture should provide space for diverse political expressions of opinion, but this year's Berlinale award ceremony was characterized by self-righteous anti-Israel propaganda that does not belong on the stages of Berlin," wrote the CDU -Politician on Sunday at X. It is to be hoped that the festival management will deal with the incidents consistently.

Actor Lars Eidinger said after the award ceremony that he “can hardly remember times that were so political.” But it would be “fatal if it were completely ignored or excluded for such an event,” said Eidinger. The Berlinale has always been considered the most political of the world's largest film festivals.

Golden Bear for film about the return of art objects

In the film "Dahomey", which won the Golden Bear this year, director Diop, who has Senegalese roots, deals with art treasures that were stolen from the West African city of Benin - then Dahomey - in 1892. It follows 26 statues on their journey from France to their country of origin. In total, thousands of works of art were stolen around 130 years ago and are still in France today.

The experimental documentary captivates with poetic passages - for example, one of the works of art speaks off-screen several times. Part of the film shows a discussion in Benin among mostly young people. They argue about whether the return should be seen as progress or as postcolonial arrogance. Current problems in the country such as poverty and the lack of education are also discussed.

Matthias Glasner: People dream of my film

Several Silver Bears were also awarded. One went to German director Matthias Glasner for the script of his emotionally heated drama “Die”. In the film with Corinna Harfouch and Lars Eidinger in leading roles, the director dealt with the complex relationship with his family. Glasner was worried that the drama might be too personal. But: "I've been stopped every few meters for days by people who say: 'Great film, it touched me so much, I dream about it,'" Glasner told the German Press Agency on Saturday evening. And: “It was somehow worth it that when you open yourself up so much that others open up too.”

Grand Jury Prize to Hong Sangsoo

The Grand Jury Prize went to the melancholic comedy "Yeohaengjaui pilyo" ("A Traveler's Needs") by South Korean veteran director Hong Sangsoo, starring Isabelle Huppert. "I don't understand what you see in my film," Sangsoo said, visibly modestly, to the jury on stage.

Romanian-American actor Sebastian Stan was named best actor for his performance in the tragicomedy "A Different Man." Britain's Emily Watson won the award for best supporting role in "Small Things Like These." The 57-year-old came on stage with a crutch because of a broken foot.

The Frenchman Bruno Dumont received the jury prize for the sci-fi parody "L'Empire". Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias won the Silver Bear for best director for “Pepe,” an experimental film about a dead hippopotamus in Colombia. The Austrian cameraman Martin Gschlacht was honored for his outstanding artistic achievement in the historical drama “Des Teufels Bad”.

New Berlinale peak from April

For the management duo Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, this was the fifth and last Berlinale in their position. Tricia Tuttle will take over from April. The American sat beaming in the audience at the award ceremony. The festival ended on Sunday with a public day.