Amid widespread backlash, Berlin Film Festival has decided to disinvite politicians from AfD, a German right-wing extremist party, from the opening night ceremony on Feb. 15.
In its statement, the Berlin Film Festival acknowledged the controversy caused by its invitation of elected officials from the AfD and said the festival’s directors had decided to withdraw their invitations to five AfD politicians.
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“The current discourse has once again made it very clear how much the commitment to a free, tolerant society and standing against right-wing extremism are part of the Berlinale’s DNA,” stated the festival, adding that “for decades, the Berlinale has been committed to democratic values and against all forms of right-wing extremism.”
There have been large protests in cities across Germany in recent weeks following news reports that some members of the AfD had attended a clandestine meeting in November to discuss the possibility of deporting migrants, even those who have German citizenship.
Berlinale’s director duo, Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, pointed to “revelations that have been made in recent weeks about explicitly anti-democratic positions and individual politicians of the AfD.”
“It is important for us — as the Berlinale and as a team — to take an unequivocal stand in favor of an open democracy. We have therefore today written to all previously invited AfD politicians and informed them that they are not welcome at the Berlinale,” said the pair, whose mandate will end after this year’s edition.
Germany’s culture minister Claudia Roth has defended the controversial decision to invite several members of the increasingly ostracized far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to the opening of the Berlinale.
Roth, who is also behind the Berlinale’s decision to replace incumbent artistic director Carlo Chatrian from 2025, defended the decision by indicating that the AfD officials were democratically elected to the state and federal parliaments. She also issued a blunt warning that individuals “stay away” if they share any of the “anti-democratic… or racist views” that their populist party may represent.
The AfD started as an anti-Euro party a decade ago, but morphed into a broader far-right movement. It is currently the second largest opposition party in the federal parliament, but is ostracized politically because all other major parties have vowed never to form coalition governments with the AfD.
The party has risen in opinion polls to become the second most popular party in Germany on a platform of anti-Islam, anti-immigration, German national and eurosceptic policies that have attracted voters, mainly in rural areas.
Read the full statement below.
Over the past few days, there has been an intense discussion in the cultural sector, in the press and on social media as well as within the Berlinale team about the invitations of AfD politicians, a right-wing extremist party, to the Opening of the Berlinale. Today, the directors of the Berlinale have decided to disinvite the five previously invited AfD politicians.
The current discourse has once again made it very clear how much the commitment to a free, tolerant society and standing against right-wing extremism are part of the Berlinale’s DNA. For decades, the Berlinale has been committed to democratic values and against all forms of right-wing extremism. The film programme and the Berlinale as a cultural institution stand for this. The festival has repeatedly pointed out that it observes with concern how anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim resentment, hate speech and other anti-democratic and discriminatory attitudes are on the rise in Germany.
“Especially in light of the revelations that have been made in recent weeks about explicitly anti-democratic positions and individual politicians of the AfD, it is important for us – as the Berlinale and as a team – to take an unequivocal stand in favour of an open democracy. We have therefore today written to all previously invited AfD politicians and informed them that they are not welcome at the Berlinale,” says the Berlinale’s director duo, Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian.
The AfD and many of its members and representatives hold views that are deeply contrary to the fundamental values of democracy. Demands for a homogeneous society, immigration restrictions and mass deportations, homophobic, queer-hostile and racist remarks, as well as severe historical revisionism and outright right-wing extremism – can be found at the AfD.
In times when right-wing extremists are moving into parliaments, the Berlinale wants to take a clear position by taking a clear stance with today’s disinvitation of the AfD. The discussion on how to deal with AfD politicians also affects many other organisations and festivals. This debate must be conducted across society as a whole and together with all democratic parties.
Erik Kirschbaum contributed to this report.
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