The Berlinale in turmoil after comments about Israel during the awards ceremony


The Berlin film festival found itself at the center of a controversy on Sunday February 25 after several artists accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza during the awards ceremony on Saturday.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in Berlin, and this also applies to artists,” denounced the mayor of the German capital, Kai Wegner, on his X account . “What happened yesterday at the Berlinale constituted an unbearable relativization,” he added, demanding accountability from the festival management.

The controversy was fueled in particular by statements by filmmakers on Saturday evening, during the awards ceremony, accusing Israel of genocide due to the bombings which left nearly 30,000 dead in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Ministry of Defense. health of Hamas – an unverifiable figure from an independent source, which would include civilians as well as combatants.

At the same time, these directors did not mention that the Israeli offensive was triggered by an unprecedented attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas against Israel, causing the deaths of at least 1,160 people, the majority civilians.

Thus, the American filmmaker Ben Russell, awarded for the film Direct Action, co-directed with the Frenchman Guillaume Cailleau, took the stage wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh and accusing Israel of genocide. Palestinian documentary maker Basel Adra, who won an award alongside a collective of Palestinian and Israeli directors for No Other Land, a film about the expulsions of Palestinians in the West Bank, also accused Israel of “massacre” the Palestinian population and criticized German arms sales to the Jewish state. Their positions were widely applauded.

Reaction from political leaders

An MP from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic party, Helge Lindh, described the applause as “shocking” . “I am ashamed to see that, in my country, people today applaud accusations of genocide against Israel,” he told the daily Die Welt .

An elected member of the Greens, who are members of the German coalition government, Konstantin von Notz, also denounced “a shame” and “a perfidious reversal” for Jews “from the status of victims to executioners” .

The Berlin film festival is mainly financed by the German government which, due to the Nazi horrors, has made the defense of Israel a reason of state and made the fight against anti-Semitism one of its major goals. priorities.

In a press release sent in the evening to Agence France-Presse, the Berlinale judged that the filmmakers’ statements constituted “individual and independent opinions” of the festival, which in no way represent those of the Berlinale but that it It is appropriate to “accept” as long as they “comply with the legal framework” . At the same time, the festival management indicated that it “understood the indignation” aroused by the comments “felt to be too biased” made during the awards ceremony.

A “hacked” festival Instagram account

Stirring up a little more controversy, an Instagram account for the film festival, “Berlinale. panorama” , further distributed controversial photos and images bearing the slogan “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea” or “Stop the genocide in Gaza” .

The festival management indicated that this Instagram account had been “hacked” . “Comments relating to the conflict in the Middle East have been published which do not emanate from the festival and do not represent its positions,” she said in a press release.

“It is unbearable that people are using a Berlinale social media account to spread anti-Semitic propaganda,” she said, claiming to have deleted the messages and filed a complaint against “this criminal act.”

The World with AFP

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