Politics and glamour mark Berlin Film Festival’s opening night

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 4:01 PM

BERLIN (Reuters) – Even the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival’s opening ceremony was not free of politics on Thursday evening as demonstrators and celebrities turned out in nearly equal measure in the centre of the German capital.

The cast of the Irish historical drama “Small Things Like These,” including the Oscar-nominated Cillian Murphy as well as Matt Damon in a producer role, were on the carpet, as were German stars Lars Eidinger, in competition film “Sterben,” and Heike Makatsch, known for “Love Actually,” among others.

The carpet was briefly taken over by dozens of industry professionals, chanting “defend democracy,” who gathered on the festival’s initiative as its organizers seek to leave no doubt that they are steadfastly against right-wing extremism after controversy over the invitation – and later disinvitation – of members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Model Papis Loveday combined politics and glamour by holding up a sign reading “No racism! No AfD” while wearing a white cape that said “More empathy” on the back while actor Pheline Roggan displayed a necklace with the diamond-studded letters “FCK AFD.”

According to German magazine Spiegel, some people on the edge of the carpet were seen holding posters in support of the AfD that read: “Berlinale – discrimination is the norm.”

Separately, dozens gathered near the Berlinale Palast where the ceremony was taking place as part of a strike called for higher wages at the CinemaxX and CineStar theatre chain.

Festival co-director Mariette Rissenbeek used her opening ceremony speech to highlight the wars and conflicts in Ukraine, Iran, the Middle East and Sudan, as well as warn of the threat that right-wing extremists pose to Germany’s democracy.

“We have obviously reached tipping points in the climate crisis and in our society. That is why we must and can adapt the rules of interaction with each other,” Rissenbeek told the audience at the opening ceremony.

“The Berlinale has plenty of room for dialogue between people and art. But it has no room for hate. Hate is not on our guest list,” she added, to a round of applause.

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala and Swantje Stein; Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)