What is going on with Berlin Film Festival and German far-right party AfD?

Directors of the Berlin Film Festival have U-turned and disinvited members of German far-right party AfD
Directors of the Berlin Film Festival have U-turned and disinvited members of German far-right party AfD Copyright Berlinale
By David Mouriquand
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Directors of the Berlin Film Festival have U-turned and disinvited members of German far-right party AfD, in light of revelations over an alleged “masterplan” concerning mass deportation.

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The Berlin Film Festival has disinvited members of the German far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) from attending the opening gala of this year’s 74th edition of the Berlinale. 

Up until recently, the festival was standing by its decision to extend an invitation to the AfD, as part of a standard invitation to Berlin state parliamentarians across the party spectrum.

The Berlinale had even received backing from Claudia Roth, Green politician and Germany’s federal commissioner for culture, whose office stated that the Berlinale’s decision to invite members of the AfD was “in accordance with democratic practice and the federal government’s respect for the parliament and its elected delegates.

But now, the directors of the Berlinale - Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian – have made a U-turn, citing recent reports on the AfD’s alleged mass deportation plans.

Indeed, there have been reports that AfD politicians have held meetings with neo-Nazi activists, and had discussed a “masterplan” for mass deportations in the event of the party coming to power.

“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,” read the statement put out by the directors of the festival.

“We have therefore today written to all previously invited AfD politicians and informed them that they are not welcome at the Berlinale.”

The Berlinale had previously issued a statement regarding its decision to invite members of the AfD to the opening ceremony. The festival had confirmed that AfD members Kristin Brinker and Ronald Gläse were invited, but that Berlinale “stands for basic democratic values and against right-wing extremism.”

Gläser has frequently been called out for his extreme statements, including once comparing Winston Churchill to Adolf Hitler.

The previous Berlinale statement read:

"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."

The invitations sparked outrage, with film professionals signing an open letter to the festival protesting the decision, saying that the invitation to AfD politicians was “incompatible” with the Berlinale’s statement commitment “to being a place of empathy, awareness and understanding.'”

This year’s Berlinale will kick off amid intense debate about whether the anti-immigration party poses a fundamental threat to Germany’s democratic constitution. Hundreds of thousands of Germans have taken to the streets to protest the AfD and to have the party banned as anti-democratic.

The 74th Berlin Film Festival opens on 15 February and lasts until 25 February. The opening film is the world premiere of Small Things Like These, a film based on the Irish author Claire Keegan’s bestselling historical novel, starring Cillian Murphy. Stay tuned to Euronews Culture for more updates, news and film reviews from the festival.

Additional sources • Berlinale, Deadline

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