Moritz de Hadeln, outgoing Berlin International Film Festival chief, rebuffed criticism that Germany's leading film event has become dominated by US films as he picked up a tribute award for services to European cinema at the European Film Forum of Strasbourg (November 9-14).

In his acceptance speech, de Hadeln argued against a division between European and US cinema, maintaining that the two were often the same. His remarks came despite the fact that many international and US industry executives say the festival has lost considerable significance as a platform for European cinema because of its desire to attract star-laden Hollywood fare.

"I have too often been accused of favouring American films," said de Hadeln, who steps down after next year's event. "I like American cinema, it is true! But one should not forget that Hollywood would never have been what it is, without the enormous contribution of European talents. European cinema should not be built as a defensive fortress!"

De Hadeln added that European cinema was at its weakest point in 10 years, highlighting Eastern Europe. "Where today are the films from Romania, the Czechs, the Russians, the Poles or the Hungarians - just to mention a few'" he asked. "The European administration and we all should have more concern in helping the film industries of our Eastern borders, where so much talent is presently being forced to an almost standstill."