The Berlinale, Europe’s premier film festival, is facing challenges amid ongoing conflicts and political tensions. The war in Gaza adds a layer of geopolitical tension, potentially impacting the participation of filmmakers and the screening of relevant films that address the Israel-Hamas war or its aftermath. Similarly, cultural repression in Iran may lead to the suppression of artistic expression and limit the presence of Iranian filmmakers at the festival.
The festival announced on February 8 that five members of the right-wing Alternative for Germany Party would not be attending.
The Berlin International Film Festival, a.k.a. the Berlinale is a major international film festival held annually in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1951 and originally run in June, the festival has been held every February since 1978 and is one of Europe’s Big Three film festivals alongside Italy’s Venice Film Festival, and France’s Cannes Film Festival.
The festival regularly draws tens of thousands of visitors each year. About 400 films are shown at multiple venues across Berlin. They are screened in nine sections across cinematic genres, with around twenty films competing for the festival’s top awards in the Competition section. The major awards, the Golden Bear and Silver Bears, are decided on by an international jury, chaired by A-list film celebrities.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, confrontations over the war in Gaza will involve not only pro-Hamas and pro-Israel protesters but also filmmakers and the German government, which foots the bill for the Berlinale.
In their pre-Festival statement, Berlinale co-directors Mariette Rissenbeek (outgoing), and Carlo Chatrian addressed the humanitarian crises in the Middle East and elsewhere, saying that they are sympathizing with them.
Furthermore, they expressed concern about the rise of antisemitism, anti-Muslim resentment, and hate speech in Germany and around the world, and stressed that as a cultural institution, they support intercultural understanding and oppose all forms of discrimination.
Good to know.
One film to be featured in the documentary section of the festival is “There’s No Other Land,” about “Israeli settler violence in the West Bank,” directed by a “Palestinian-Israeli collective.”
“Holy Week” by Andrei Cohn, in the Forum section, looks at antisemitism in Romania around the year 1900.
And “Treasure,” by German director Julia von Heinz, starring Lena Dunham and Stephen Fry, is set in the 1990s and deals with the generational impact of the Holocaust.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, at least two directors have pulled their films from the festival. Ayo Tsalithaba, a Toronto-based artist and filmmaker originally from Ghana and Lesotho, who uses they/their pronouns, withdrew their film “Atmospheric Arrivals”; and Indian American artist Suneil Sanzgiri pulled his “Two Refusals – Would We Recognize Ourselves Unbroken?”
In the meantime, the event, known for its staunch support of Iran’s struggling directors, has called upon Tehran to permit the attendance of two filmmakers who have been subjected to a travel restriction. Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha were scheduled to showcase their latest film, “My Favorite Cake,” which delves into the constraints faced by women in Iran. They probably won’t.