At a Berlinale press conference for his controversial film Amen, the film's director, Constantin Costa-Gavras, was tackled by a priest from the Vatican who accused him of digging up the past without adequate research. Having responded, he left Rolf Hochhuth, the playwright who wrote the book on which the film was based, to field journalists' questions.

In a subsequent interview with Screen International, Costa-Gavras countered the charge of lack of research.

Screen International: How much of the argument presented in your film, about Pope Pius XII's failure to denounce Hitler's extermination of the Jews during World War II, is new'

Costa-Gavras : "I went through a lot of books. I refused to meet historians, because every historian has his point of view. I read around twenty books on the subject, written from different viewpoints, but what they all agreed on was the Vatican's complete silence - which is what I show in my movie.

"I tried to say before in the press conference that this silence wasn't just during the extermination of the Jews: it started before, when Eugenio Pacelli [later to become Pope Pius XII] was papal nuncio in Berlin.

"There are some very controversial scenes in Amen - one near the end where an Austrian cardinal is shown helping a camp commandant to escape to exile in Argentina is particularly difficult.

"Not only did monsignor Hudal help Nazis to escape, he also wrote a book in the early 1940s called The Christian Religion in Europe. In this book he says that we should use Nazis to help us get rid of the Jews because they are the corrupt element of Europe.

"Hudal was close to the Pope; he was dean of the Austrian seminary in Rome. Pius II's defenders claim that although he knew about the Holocaust, he felt that it was better to continue a policy of quiet diplomacy, as to speak out might make things worse.

"You don't agree with this' No. Because that way you end up accepting everything. That's how you kill any form"