Berlin Film Festival jury questions move to uninvite far right

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 8:54 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) – Two star members of the Berlin Film Festival’s jury on Thursday criticised a decision to withdraw invitations to hard-right politicians, with one suggesting the event could have broadened the lawmakers’ horizons.

Five members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party were invited to the opening ceremony on Thursday evening alongside other elected politicians.

But organisers withdrew the invites last week amid a nationwide uproar after it emerged members of the party had discussed deportations of ethnic minorities at a secret meeting.

German director Christian Petzold, whose film “Afire” won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize last year, and Italian actor Jasmine Trinca both said the decision was not conducive to open discussion.

“We are not cowards,” Petzold told journalists at a news conference presenting the jury. “If we can’t stand five members of the AfD as part of the audience, we will lose our fight.”

Trinca, whose TV series “Supersex” about porn star Rocco Siffredi will show at the fest, said cinema had the power to change people’s perspectives.

The five politicians could have sat in the audience, watched the “works of cinema chosen by the Berlinale to represent this time and moment in life”, and broadened their perspectives, Trinca said.

Katrin Brinker, the AfD’s leader in Berlin who had her invitation cancelled, earlier said the decision showed the festival as bowing to pressure from cultural activists.

“It marginalises, stigmatises and denies democratically elected representatives of the AfD the same rights that it grants to others,” she said in a video on her Facebook page.

The AfD is an anti-immigrant party that has portrayed itself as a steward of traditional German culture and a voice for those who feel ignored by the political class.

Current affairs reared their head again at the press conference when the sound of an air raid siren blared from the phone of jury member and Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko to signal the end of Russia’s most recent round of missile attacks.

Jury president Lupita Nyong’o, the Mexican-Kenyan star of “Black Panther” and “12 Years A Slave”, tried to steer the conversation back to cinema.

“I’m a foreigner here. I don’t know the ins and outs of the political situation here. I’m glad I don’t have to answer that question. I’m glad I don’t have to be in that position,” she said when asked about the AfD invites.

And Petzold relented. “When artists talk about Gaza at a press conference, then about Ukraine, then about five AfD fellas, then at some point I think to myself, we’re here to watch films,” he said.

(Reporting by Miranda Murray and Swantje Stein; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Heavens)