Germany launches probe over Berlin Film Festival winners condemning Israel’s war on Gaza

Ahram Online , Tuesday 27 Feb 2024

German officials revealed on Monday that they will investigate how the Berlin International Film Festival allowed award winners to condemn Israel's war in Gaza at the event's closing ceremony on Sunday 25 February.

(Photo: courtesy of Berlinale)


Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra, during his speech, while accepting the top documentary prize for No Other Land, criticized Israel's war on Gaza.

The film's Israeli co-director Yuval Abraham condemned Israel onstage, saying that Palestinians have to endure the "apartheid Israel."

"In two days, we will go back to a land where we are not equal," Abraham said. "I am living under civilian law, and Basel is under military law. We live 30 minutes from one another, but I have voting rights, and Basel is not having voting rights,” he added.

Just hours after his statement, Abraham revealed to the press that he received death threats for his remarks. 

The US filmmaker Ben Russell accepted his award wearing the Palestinian scarf. The co-director of Direct Action, winner of the best film award in the festival's Encounters section, said: "Of course, we also stand for life here and we stand against genocide and for a ceasefire in solidarity with all our comrades."

Other award recipients and artists also expressed support for the Palestinian cause, wearing Palestinian scarves.

For instance, the Lebanese actress of Palestinian origin Yasmine Al-Masry was wearing the scarf along with two brooches: one with a Palestinian flag and the other carrying the words "Choose Love." El-Masry took part in a Jordanian production, The Stranger's Case, which had its world premiere in the Berlinale Special Gala programme.

Berlinale has referred to the artists' comments as "one-sided," stating in a recent press release that "the sometimes one-sided and activist statements made by award winners were an expression of individual personal opinions. They in no way reflect the festival's position."

“We understand the outrage that the statements made by some of the award winners were perceived as too one-sided and, in some cases, inappropriate. In the run-up to and during our festival, we made it very clear what the Berlinale’s view of the war in the Middle East is and that we do not share one-sided positions,” the release has quoted Berlinale's Executive Director Mariëtte Rissenbeek as saying. 

“However, the Berlinale sees itself – today, as in the past – as a platform for open dialogue across cultures and countries. We must therefore also tolerate opinions and statements that contradict our own opinions, as long as these statements do not discriminate against people or groups of people in a racist or similarly discriminating way or cross legal limits," it added.

The release also revealed that the "Instagram channel of the Berlinale Panorama section was briefly hacked," pointing to the alleged hackers posting images from the war in Palestine, with Berlinale referring to them as "anti-Semitic."

"The Berlinale condemns this criminal act in the strongest possible terms and has deleted the posts and launched an investigation," the festival's statement continued.

Before the closing ceremony, a group of pro-Palestinian supporters staged a protest against Israel in one of the venues hosting the Berlin Film Festival’s European Film Market, media reported last week.

According to Deadline, an online platform dedicated to coverage of international cinema news, "about 50 people entered the ground floor of the main atrium shouting, 'Stop the genocide,' while large banners were unfurled from the galleries above bearing the message 'Lights, Camera, Genocide' with an image of a clapperboard dripping in blood."

"In the lead up to the festival and market, contracted festival workers released an open letter calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all captives, and stronger institutional leadership, in response to the current assault on Palestinian life," read Deadline's report released on 18 February.

At the beginning of this week, fresh fatalities brought the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza to 29,782 and the wounded to 70,043 since the war started on 7 October.

Short link: