Berlin film festival invites far-right politicians, drawing backlash

The Berlin International Film Festival has come under fire for inviting far-right politicians to the opening ceremony.

Two elected members of Alternative for Germany (AfD) have accepted the offer to attend the February 15 event – Berlin state chairwoman Kristin Brinker and her deputy, Roland Briller.

More than 200 film professionals and culture workers have signed an open letter denouncing the move, calling on festival organisers to “rescind and reconsider these offensive and insensitive invitations”.

“We don’t believe the opening ceremony can be considered a safe place for Jews, women, members of the BIPOC, LGBTI+, disabled, Roma and Sinti, or Jehovah’s Witness communities, who, among others, faced persecution and genocide at the hands of another far-right, national-conservative movement in Germany,” the letter seen by Al Jazeera said.

Among the signatories are the UK-based writer and programmer Jemma Desai, celebrated Palestinian British filmmaker Saeed Taji Farouky, and Konstantina Levi, the founder of a Berlin-based studio.

The 10-day Berlinale festival, which receives some state funds, is one of the global film industry’s most important events. It will showcase 239 films this year and usually attracts tens of thousands of cinephiles.

Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is set to preside over the jury, which includes the German director Christian Petzold, Hong Kong’s Ann Hui and the Spanish filmmaker Albert Serra.

The festival said its decision to include far-right politicians was bureaucratic as it denounced their ideology and suggested they were not “welcome”.

“Both the Federal government Commissioner for Culture and Media and the Berlin Senate receive invitation quotas for the Berlinale opening, which are allocated to the elected members,” it said, adding, that it was against this background that the AfD representatives were invited.

“People – including elected representatives – who act contrary to democratic values are not welcome at the Berlinale”.

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