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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.

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“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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