Movies

Berlin Film Festival Says It “Stands Against Right-Wing Extremism” As Industry Petition Decries Opening Ceremony Invitation To Far-Right Politicians

EXCLUSIVE: A growing list of 200+ film professionals, largely from within the German industry, have signed an open letter protesting the Berlin Film Festival’s decision to invite members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to this year’s opening ceremony.

The open letter was launched Friday evening. Signatories (who can be viewed below) include actors, directors, producers, writers, programmers, educators, journalists and students. The group includes industry from the U.S., UK, and other European countries.

“We, the undersigned, are outraged that invitations have been extended to politicians from the AfD (Alternative for Germany) to the opening ceremony of the 74th Berlin International Film Festival,” the letter began. “We find this to be incompatible with the festival’s commitment to being a place of ‘empathy, awareness, and understanding,’ a declaration shared at its annual press conference on January 19 and published on the festival homepage.”

The letter highlighted a 2019 statement published by the Berlin Film Festival titled “We, the Many,” which singled out far-right groups, saying “right-wing populism” stands in “hostile opposition to the art of the many.” 

The open letter drew out the contrast between the festival’s 2019 statement and its 2024 invitations to the right-wing politicians.  

“The invitations invalidate these statements and are yet another example of the hostile and hypocritical environment art and culture faces in Berlin and Germany,” the letter reads. “We refuse to normalize or allow right-wing politicians to participate in our spaces.”

The letter adds: “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 Berlin Film Festival confirmed to Deadline that AfD members Kristin Brinker and Ronald Gläser, who were elected to office in the last local elections, were extended invitations as part of festival protocol to invite democratically elected politicians to the festival.

The state-funded festival responded to the open letter in a statement to Deadline:

“Members of the AfD were elected to the Bundestag and the Berlin House of Representatives in the last elections. Accordingly, they are also represented in political cultural committees and other bodies. That is a fact, and we have to accept it as such,” the festival said. “Both the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the Berlin Senate receive invitation quotas for the Berlinale, which are allocated to the democratically elected members of all parties in the Bundestag and House of Representatives. It was against this background that the AfD representatives were invited to the Berlinale.”

The statement added: “People – including elected representatives – who act contrary to our fundamental values are not welcome at the Berlinale. We will express this clearly and emphatically in a personal letter to the AfD representatives as well as on other occasions.”

Scroll down to read the full statement, which begins with the Berlinale stating that it stands for “basic democratic values and against right-wing extremism and supports all demonstrations and other initiatives against the undemocratic currents.”

The far-right AfD is currently polling second in Germany and there are fears from many in the industry that the party could sweep local and European elections this summer.

The party’s ideology has been classified as anti-Islam, anti-immigration, German nationalist, Eurosceptic and denying of human-caused climate change. Gläser, one of the AfD politicians invited to the Berlinale opening, previously compared Winston Churchill to Adolf Hitler, describing the former as a “warlord” and a “war-criminal”.

Over the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Germans have hit the streets in protest against the party, calling for it to be banned after it was uncovered by investigative outlet Correctiv that senior AfD members had discussed a plot to deport asylum-seekers and German citizens of foreign origin en masse if they came to power. 

The plan has been widely criticized in the German media, with current Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying it was “reminiscent of the darkest times in German history,” in reference to Hitler’s Third Reich. 

The industry open letter ends by asking the Berlin Film Festival to “reconsider and rescind these offensive and insensitive invitations for the safety and well-being of all guests attending the festival.”

Berlinale statement to Deadline:

“The Berlinale stands for basic democratic values and against right-wing extremism and supports all demonstrations and other initiatives against the undemocratic currents. We clearly reject right-wing extremist or right-wing populist thinking and are concerned to observe that anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim resentment, hate speech and other anti-democratic attitudes are on the rise in Germany. For weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have been taking to the streets in Germany to defend our democracy and our values. This sends a clear signal of how the majority in Germany thinks and opposes right-wing populism and anti-democracy.

“A number of members and representatives of the AfD hold positions that are deeply anti-democratic and contradict the values of the Berlinale and the values of our employees. We are committed to opposing all forms of exclusion and discrimination and consistently stand up for the values of an open-minded and liberal democracy.

“As for the invitations of AFD members to the opening of the Berlinale:

“Members of the AfD were elected to the Bundestag and the Berlin House of Representatives in the last elections. Accordingly, they are also represented in political cultural committees and other bodies. That is a fact, and we have to accept it as such. Both the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the Berlin Senate receive invitation quotas for the Berlinale, which are allocated to the democratically elected members of all parties in the Bundestag and House of Representatives. It was against this background that the AfD representatives were invited to the Berlinale.

“People – including elected representatives – who act contrary to our fundamental values are not welcome at the Berlinale. We will express this clearly and emphatically in a personal letter to the AfD representatives as well as on other occasions.”

List of industry signatories:

  1. Alexander Dettke, Gründer, Wilde Möhre GmbH, Berlin
  2. Inney Prakash, Film programmer, Prismatic Ground, New York
  3. Saeed Taji Farouky, Filmmaker & Radical Educator, London
  4. Sabine Böbbis, Kostümbildnerin, VSK, Hamburg
  5. Charlie Phillips, Producer, Folkestone
  6. Suneil Sanzgiri, Filmmaker, New York
  7. Advik Beni, Filmmaker, Los Angeles
  8. Milagro Chinaglia, Assistant director, Berlin
  9. Kathryn Fischer, musician and performer, berlin
  10. Alexandrina Ripa, Producer/PM, Freelancer, Berlin
  11. Leniko Sennoma, Fine Artist, UdK, Berlin
  12. Konstantina Levi, filmmaker, Berlin – Neukölln
  13. Wouter Jansen, Sales, Square Eyes, Vienna
  14. Claudia Gonzalez, Costume Designer, Berlin
  15. Iris Cohen, Production/Post-production, London
  16. Laura Kloeckner, Curator and Fillm Producer, Berlin
  17. Sarah Paar, Filmmaker, Berlin
  18. Alex Billington, Film critic, Berlin
  19. Jemma desai, Writer, Programmer, London
  20. Moritz Friese, DoP, Berlin
  21. Antonella Friese, Veranstalterin, Berlin
  22. Marion Schmidt, Cultural Manager / Consultant
  23. Thomas Kaske, Producer, Kaske Film, Berlin
  24. Hendrik Teltau, Postproduktion, Postfactory GmbH, Berlin
  25. timo ackermann, Student, Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, Berlin
  26. Joana Georgi, Filmmaker, Berlin
  27. Hyun Wanner, Schauspieler, BAFNET, Berlin
  28. Benita Bailex, Schauspielerin, Schwarze Filmschaffende e.V., Berlin
  29. Jonathan Gustin, DoP, Freelance, Berlin
  30. Julian Dieterich, Regisseur, Berlin
  31. Peter Bromme, Cinematographer, Peter Bromme, Kamermann, Berlin
  32. Dorota Lech, Curator, Toronto
  33. Phillip Kaminiak, DOP, Berlin
  34. holly paynter, student, berlin
  35. Monika Hinz, Kostümbildnerin, VSK, München
  36. Kaspar Hornikel, DoP, Berlin
  37. Rabih El-Khoury, Film curator, Berlin
  38. Sally Shamas, Film Colorist, Berlin
  39. Jessica Specker, Kostümbildnerin, Berlin
  40. Clara Schulze, Animator, Filmuniversität Konrad Wolf, Potsdam
  41. Mirjana Ikuye, Set Kostüm, Hamburg
  42. Winnie Wang, Writer, Toronto
  43. Manu Scheidt, Line Producer, München
  44. Astrid Möldner, Kostümbildnerin, Hamburg
  45. Claudia Kühlke, Kostümbildnerin, Hamburg
  46. Daniele Tognozzi, Künstler, Berlin
  47. Mechthild Baumsteiger, Kostümbildnerin, Wolfisheim
  48. Adèle Aïssi-Guyon, Teacher, Berlin
  49. Xenia Gomes Adaes, Producer, Berlin
  50. Amil Shivji, Filmmaker, Dar es Salaam
  51. Bettina C. Proske, Kostümbild, Hamburg
  52. Katja E. Waffenschmied, Kostümbild, Hamburg
  53. Ruby Holmer, Managerin, Black Womxn Matter, Berlin
  54. Ahmed, Student, Berlin
  55. Quinn Herrmann, Student, Filmuniversität Konrad Wolf, Berlin
  56. Ewa Ferdynus, London
  57. Hamja Ahsan, Artist & Writer, London
  58. Mohanad Yaqubi, Idioms Film
  59. Benedikt Maurer, Produktionsleiter, B:HP, Hamburg
  60. Katharina Mueckstein, Regisseurin, Wien
  61. Roxana Safarabadi, Schauspielerin, Hamburg
  62. Sophie Riva, Schauspielerin, Berlin
  63. Matthias Pöltinger, DoP, Hamburg
  64. Yasemin Cec, Actress, Hamburg
  65. Chrissie Tiller, PhD Art & Society and artist, Berlin and London
  66. Basma al-Sharif, Filmmaker, Berlin
  67. Yeji Cho, Actress, Salzburg
  68. Eidin Jalali, Actor, Berlin
  69. Sonja Madani, DoP, Freelance, Berlin
  70. Sherwin Douki, Actor, Heidelberg
  71. Leah Elias, Actor, Berlin
  72. Rolf Seyfried, Produktionsleiter, München
  73. Jane Doe, Festival Worker, Berlinale, Berlin
  74. anonymous
  75. Elisa Daniel, Cinematographer, Berlin
  76. Floriana Bonera, Kostümschaffende, Hamburg
  77. Canan Turan, Curator, Berlinale, Berlin
  78. Miedya Mahmod, writer, poet, Bochum
  79. Marvin Götting, Schauspieler, Engelspost, Hamburg
  80. Hari Sriramalu, teacher, Berlin
  81. Annika Brose, Tierpflegerin, Hamburg
  82. Ina Ivanceanu, Regisseurin, Wien
  83. Guevara Namer, Filmmaker, Berlin
  84. Henna Gramentz, Office Management, Berlin
  85. Mireya Heider de Jahnsen, Screenwriter, Berlin
  86. Ayo Tsalithaba, Filmmaker, Toronto
  87. Charlie Wanda Kachelmann, Fine Artist, Berlin
  88. Dennis Vetter, film critic, Woche der Kritik, Berlin
  89. Oliver Zimmermann, Director, Berlin
  90. anonymous, Artist & Educator
  91. Elhum Shakerifar, Producer, Hakawati, London
  92. Blair McClendon, Editor, Writer, New York
  93. Andy Grosch, Line Producer, BHP Bundesverband Herstellungs- und Produktionsleitung, Nerlin
  94. Nici Zinell, Kostümbildnerin, VSK, Berlin
  95. Jannis Stahnsdorf, Produktionsleiter, Freelancer, München
  96. Ilja Leptihn, Produktionsleiter, Berlin
  97. Melanie iredale, Exhibitor, Reclaim The Frame, Sheffield
  98. Maryam Tafakory, Artist, London
  99. Claudia Schurian, PL/LP, freelancer, Köln
  100. Ruth Schönegge, Film Editor, Berlin
  101. Naomi Bechert, Screenwriter, Berlin
  102. Mahdi Fleifel, Filmmaker, Copenhagen
  103. Divina Kuan, Berlin
  104. Benedikt Schwank, Kulturredakteur, Berlin
  105. Ashton C Green, Cinematographer, Berlin
  106. Mishka Kornai, Filmmaker, Berlin
  107. Juri Sternburg, Drehbuchautor, Berlin
  108. Nesibe Özdemir, Psychotherapeutin, Berlin
  109. Arseny Preobrazhenskiy, DoP, Berlin
  110. Trang Vo, Filmstudentin, HFF München, Berlin
  111. Elisabeth Scharang, Regisseurin, dieRegisseur*innen, Wien
  112. Janina Brinkmann, Kostümbildnerin, Hamburg
  113. Clara Stern, Regisseurin, Wie
  114. Marie Zahir, DoP, Köln
  115. Shireen Aga, Berlin
  116. Cemil Sorgun, Filmemacher, Berlin
  117. Sam Coggin, Writer, Berlin
  118. Lucy Overbeck, Berlin
  119. Anuka Eichbaum, Designern, DÜSSELDORF
  120. Harry Silverlock, Film Producer, Mimic Productions / Palace Collective, Berlin
  121. Rioghnach Ni ghrioghair
  122. Stefanie Schmauke, Kostümassistentin, Bamberg
  123. Victoria Kure-Wu, Digitalkonzepterin, Berlin
  124. Sylvie Weber, Regisseurin, Mexico City
  125. Laura Wachauf, Editor, Freelance, Munich
  126. Judith Hofmann, Produktionsleiterin, Berlin
  127. Katharina hingst, Regisseurin, Berlin
  128. Julian L. Nicklas, Ingenieur, Berlin
  129. sabrina zwach, Jägerstrasse, Theater, Berlin
  130. Yony Leyser, Filmmaker, Berlin
  131. Natalie Fischer, Filmstudent, Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, Potsdam
  132. Susann Guenther, Kostümbildnerin, Hamburg
  133. Ines Kratzmueller, actress, Wien
  134. Tiny Mungwe, Producer, STEPS and CTRL ALT Shift, Durban
  135. Pit Janzen, Scenenbildner, DFA, München
  136. Silke Schmelzer, Kostümbildnerin, München
  137. Jeremy Wade, Performance Artist, Berlin
  138. Bernadette Weigel, Filmemacherin, Wien
  139. Simon Gutknecht, Film Editor, Berlin
  140. Daniel Asadi, Regisseur, München
  141. Richard Gabriel, Producer, Berlin
  142. Markus Mayr, LP/, MÄKSMY Films, München
  143. Sybella Stevens, Producer, Berlin
  144. Theresia Wogh, Kostümbildnerin, VSK, München
  145. Yalhen Rudolph, Art Director, Berlin
  146. Susa Lie, UX Designerin, Berlin
  147. Laura Nasmyth, Regie, Vienna
  148. Karen-Linn Eulert, Kostümassistentin, Berlin
  149. Katharina Hantke, Künstlerin, Offenbach
  150. Claudia Schröder, DOP, Berlin
  151. Bernadette Weber, Kostümbild, Berlin
  152. Lena Böckmann, costume maker, Berlin
  153. Christiane Schmidt, filmmaker, Berlin
  154. Victoria Dietrich, Kostümbildnerin, München
  155. Antonia Kilian, Filmmaker, Kassel
  156. Monique Küsel, Editorin, Berlin
  157. Ina Conrad, Frankfurt
  158. Jennifer Rösner, Garderobiere, Erfurt
  159. Nadja Lischewski, Project manager, Köln
  160. Joseph Bundschuh, Schauspieler, Berlin
  161. Marie Noel, Autorin, Schwarze Filmschaffende e.V, Wien
  162. Rosanagh Griffiths, Filmmaker, Spinster, Glasgow
  163. Martin Darr, Drehbuchautor, Filmzirkel Hannover, Hannover
  164. Nadia Khairat, Berlin
  165. Marion Schumacher, Kostümbildnerin, Hamburg
  166. Florian von Bornstädt, Drehbuchautor, Berlin
  167. Wayra Schübel, press officer, Wayra Schübel-Art Communication, Berlin
  168. Katja Christochowitz, Produktionsleiter, Köln
  169. Thea Drechsler, Urbach
  170. Jerry Kwarteng, Schauspieler, Schwarze Filmschaffende e.V., Berlin
  171. Mika braun, Kostümbildnerin, Vsk/filmakademie, München
  172. Jasmina Kuhnke, Autorin, Schwarze Filmschaffende, Köln
  173. Carina Cavegn, Szenenbildnerin, München
  174. Vivi Thiele, Costume assistence, Hamburg
  175. Ayşe, Filmstudentin, Berlin
  176. Sinha Melina Gierke, Schauspielerin, Berlin
  177. Dominik Wirth, Sprecher, Berlin
  178. Valeska Bochow, Produktionsleitung, Bhp, Berlin
  179. lara casselman, art director, berlin
  180. Hanna Jürgens, Schauspielerin, Regisseurin, Berlin
  181. Julenka Werkmeister, Schauspielerin & Produktionsassistentin, Berlin
  182. anonymous
  183. Willi Rudolph, Fotograf und Filmemacher, Berlin
  184. Selina Sondermann, Filmschaffende, Berlin
  185. Borislav Salatino, Assistant Producer, The Marmalade Studios GmbH & Co. KG, Hamburg
  186. Anna M. Sosnik, Schauspielerin, Berlin
  187. Franziska van der Heide, Schauspielerin, Berlin
  188. Elisabeth Fuxa, Außenrequisiteurin, München
  189. Teresa Hoffmann, Studentin, Universität der Künste, Berlin
  190. Candice Breitz, Artist, Berlin
  191. Sophie Heyer, Kameraassistentin, Berlin
  192. Marion Aha, 1.AL, Berlin
  193. Sera, Student, Düsseldorf
  194. Lilly Krauße, Set Dec Buyer, München
  195. Stephanie Traut
  196. Arthur Wiechmann, DoP, Freelancer, Berlin
  197. Saskia Stirn, Animation Producer, Ludwigsburg
  198. Ruby Wilson, Schauspielerin, Berlin
  199. Heike Hütt, Kostümbildnerin, VSK, Berlin
  200. Jose Fernandes, Aufnahmeleiter, Filmschaffender, Köln/Görlitz
  201. Marusch Mehnert, Kamermann, Berlin
  202. coco kneffel, filmstudent, berlin
  203. Loredana Tassone, Studentin, Berlin

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