The Berlinale has been forced to suspend the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize following revelations in German weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT suggesting the festival’s first director had been ”a high-ranking functionary in the Nazi film bureaucracy” during the Third Reich.
”In view of these new findings, the Berlinale will suspend the ‘Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize’ with immediate effect,” the festival announced on its website only hours after the programme press conference.
”The festival had previously been unaware of Alfred Bauer’s prominent position in National Socialism,” the statement continued. ”We welcome the research and its publication in DIE ZEIT and will seize the opportunity to begin deeper research on the festival history with the support of external experts.”
In Katja Nicodemus’ article for DIE ZEIT with the heading ’A zealous SA man’ (SA is the acronym for the Nazi Party’s original paramilitary wing, the Sturmabteilung), sources suggest Bauer had overseen personnel affairs in propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’ film apparatus, the Reichsfilmintendanz, including the deployment of actors, directors, cameramen and other crew on film productions for the Third Reich.
According to the newspaper, he was involved in the decisions about which filmmakers were exempt from military service and who would have to work in the armaments industry or go to the front.
After the war, Bauer covered up his past, claiming to the denazification authorities he had left the SA in 1938 and Nazi party in 1943. DIE ZEIT did not find any evidence to corroborate his version of events.
Alfred Bauer was the Berlinale’s first festival director from its launch in 1951 until 1976, when he was succeeded by the German film critic Wolf Donner.
Donner’s successor Moritz de Hadeln told his biographer Christian Jungen for the 2018 book Mister Filmfestival that Bauer regularly visited his office after he was appointed festival director in 1980.
”We had an open exchange and discussed a lot about the future of the film festival,” de Hadeln said.
Following Bauer’s death in 1986, de Hadeln decided to create the Alfred Bauer Prize in honour of the festival’s first director. The prize has been presented as one of the Competition’s Silver Bears to a film that “opens new perspectives on cinematic art”.
The first recipient at the Berlinale’s 1987 edition was Léos Carax’s Bad Blood, followed by filmmakers such as Baz Luhrmann (Romeo+Juliet), Stanley Kwan (Hold You Tight), Zhang Yimou (Hero), Christopher Roth (Baader), Miguel Gomes (Tabu), Agnieszka Holland (Spoor), and Lav Diaz (A Lullaby To A Sorrowful Mystery).
The 2019 Alfred Bauer Prize went to Nora Fingscheidt’s feature debut System Crasher.
The press dossier issued to journalists after the programme press conference yesterday morning (January 29) included the Alfred Bauer Prize in the list of awards for the Competition, but with a new designation as ’Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, Special Prize of the Jury’.
Meanwhile, an event to mark a new book about Bauer by film historian Rolf Aurich had originally been scheduled for February 24 at the Deutsche Kinemathek during the Berlinale, but has since been cancelled following the revelations from DIE ZEIT.
This year’s festival takes place from Feburary 20 until March 1.