Carlo Chatrian

Source: Alexander Janetzko/Berlinale

Carlo Chatrian

Outgoing Berlinale co-director Carlo Chatrian said criticism of pro-Gaza, anti-war speeches made at this year’s awards ceremony “weaponises antisemitism… for political means”.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Chatrian, who has stepped down from his role after five years, said: “This year’s festival was a place for dialogue and exchange for ten days; yet once the films stopped rolling, another form of communication has been taken over by politicians and the media, one which weaponises and instrumentalises antisemitism for political means.”

The post was co-signed by head of programming Mark Peranson.

They added: “The award ceremony on Saturday, February 24 has been targeted in such a violent way that some people now see their lives threatened. This is unacceptable.”

“We stand in solidarity with all filmmakers, jury members, and other festival guests who have received direct or indirect threats, and do not back down from any programming choices made at this year’s Berlinale.”

Last Saturday’s controversial closing night gala saw several filmmakers, including Brazil’s Juliana Rojas (Cidade: Campo), Ben Russell and Guillaume Cailleau (co-directors of Direct Action) and Golden Bear- winning director Mati Diop (Dahomey) voice their solidarity for the Palestinian people.

Subsequently, politicians including Berlin mayor Kai Wegner; Joe Chialo, senator for cultural affairs; and Melanie Kühnemann-Grunow, spokesperson on media policy for the Social Democrats (SPD) criticised the Berlinale for the speeches. Chialo said: “Culture should offer a space for diverse political opinions, but this year’s award ceremony of the Berlinale was marked by self-righteous anti-Israeli propaganda that has no place on the stages of Berlin.”

Speaking to Screen earlier this week, Chatrian’s fellow co-director Mariette Rissenbeek said the festival did not consider the comments made on the Berlinale stage to have been antisemitic.

“The award winners’ statements may have been one-sided in their empathy for the suffering civilian population in Palestine, but they have not made any statements that negate Israel’s right to exist or are antisemitic,” she said.

Chatrian and Peranson concluded their statement by again emphasising that he felt criticism of Israel should be permitted at the festival. He said: “As festivalgoers and programmers, we truly hope that the Berlinale will stay a “window of the free world”. A place where any film can be shown. A place where any international guest can come without having their political views scrutinized. As Meron Mendl, director of the Bildungsstatte Anne Frank said when asked for comments regarding the awards ceremony. “It would be wrong to describe all those who criticise Israel one-sidedly and sometimes with radical positions as antisemites… whether we like it or not, we have to learn to endure such debates.”