The Berlinale in turmoil after comments about Israel during the awards ceremony

The Berlin film festival found itself at the center of a controversy on Sunday February 25 after several artists accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza during the awards ceremony on Saturday.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in Berlin, and that goes for artists too”denounced the mayor of the German capital, Kai Wegner, on his X account. “What happened yesterday at the Berlinale was an unbearable put into perspective”he added, demanding accountability from the festival management.

The controversy was fueled in particular by statements by filmmakers on Saturday evening, during the awards ceremony, accusing Israel of genocide due to the bombings which left nearly 30,000 dead in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Ministry of Defense. health of Hamas – an unverifiable figure from an independent source, which would include civilians as well as combatants.

At the same time, these directors did not mention that the Israeli offensive was triggered by an unprecedented attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas against Israel, causing the deaths of at least 1,160 people, the majority civilians.

Thus, the American filmmaker Ben Russell, awarded for the film Direct Action, co-directed with Frenchman Guillaume Cailleau, took the stage wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh and accusing Israel of genocide. Palestinian documentary filmmaker Basel Adra, who, alongside a collective of Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers, was awarded a prize for No Other Land, a film about the expulsions of Palestinians in the West Bank, also accused Israel of “massacre” the Palestinian population and criticized German arms sales to the Jewish state. Their positions were widely applauded.

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Reaction from political leaders

An MP from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s social-democratic party, Helge Lindh, described “shocking” this applause. “I am ashamed to see that, in my country, people today applaud accusations of genocide against Israel”he declared to the daily Die Welt.

An elected official from the Greens, who are members of the German coalition government, Konstantin von Notz, also denounced ” a shame “ And “a treacherous reversal” for the Jews “from the status of victims to executioners”.

The Berlin film festival is mainly financed by the German government which, due to the Nazi horrors, has made the defense of Israel a reason of state and made the fight against anti-Semitism one of its major goals. priorities.

In a press release sent in the evening to Agence France-Presse, the Berlinale judged that the filmmakers’ statements constituted “individual and independent opinions” of the festival, which do not represent ” In nothing “ those of the Berlinale but it is appropriate “to accept” since they “respect the legal framework”. At the same time, the festival management indicated “understand the indignation” sparked by the words “felt too biased” held during the awards ceremony.

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A “hacked” festival Instagram account

Stirring up a little more controversy, an Instagram account of the film festival, “Berlinale. panorama »further distributed controversial photos and images bearing the slogan “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea” (Liberate Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea) or “Stop the genocide in Gaza”.

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Festival management indicated that this Instagram account had been “hacked”. “Comments relating to the conflict in the Middle East have been published which do not emanate from the festival and do not represent its positions”she said in a press release.

“It is unbearable that people are using a Berlinale social media account to spread anti-Semitic propaganda”she said, claiming to have deleted the messages and filed a complaint against “this criminal act”.

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The World with AFP

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