At the Berlinale, politics invites itself to the opening ceremony

We had never seen this at the Berlinale. Thursday February 15, two hours before the opening of the 74th edition, which runs until Sunday February 25, an anti-fascist action takes place not far from the Berlinale Palast, the equivalent of the Palais des Festivals, in Cannes, on the Gabriele-Tergit Walk. Around twenty artists, lined up, hold up a cardboard sign bearing a single letter, written in capitals, all forming this slogan: “No Seats for Fascists Anywhere” .

This slogan targets the Berlinale team, while the two directors of the festival, Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, have “disinvited”, under pressure from the staff, five elected officials from the German extreme right (AfD) who had planned to attend the opening ceremony, like representatives of other parties. The rise of the far right in the country, combined with the meeting of AfD members in a Potsdam hotel on November 25, 2023, to discuss a   planned large-scale expulsion of Germans of foreign origin, have seriously worried part of the population, who have mobilized during large-scale demonstrations in recent weeks.

“The Berlinale has no place for hatred. Hate is not on our guest list,” insisted Mariette Rissenbeek, who will retire at the end of this edition. Carlo Chatrian will also leave his position and the duo will be replaced by the American Tricia Tuttle, head of the feature film direction department at the National Film and Television School, in Beaconsfield, northwest of London.

The red carpet was not just a glamorous scene. During the opening ceremony cocktail, a redhead beauty in a strapless dress wore a rhinestone necklace with the message “Fuck AfD,” while a young black man sported a white cape that read: “More Empathy.” (“more empathy”). Skin color is important, underlined the president of the Berlin jury, the Mexican-Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o, an Oscar-winning actress in 2014 for her role in 12 Years a Slave , by Steve McQueen: “I am the first woman black woman to chair the Berlinale jury,” she declared with pride.

At his side, the Ukrainian poet and member of the competition jury Oksana Zaboujko recounted on stage the big difference in her day: that very morning, she was online with relatives who told her about the latest Russian bombings and their new victims, before finding himself a few minutes later posing in front of a Berlinale photographer… The war cannot be forgotten: the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will take place during the festival, Saturday February 24 , while the conflict led by Israel in the Gaza Strip rages, in response to the massacre perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, 2023.

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