Mariette Rissenbeek

Source: Kurt Krieger/German Films

Mariette Rissenbeek

As one funder said it will have to consider whether it can support the 2025 edition of the Berlinale as part of the ongoing fall-out following controversial statements made at this year’s closing-night gala, festival co-director Mariette Rissenbeek has clarified the festival’s own response to the remarks.

Mariette Rissenbeek, co-director of the Berlinale, underlined to Screen today, the festival did not consider the comments made on the Berlinale stage to have been antisemitic.

“Ahead of and during our festival, we made it very clear what is the Berlinale’s view of the war in the Middle East and that we do not share one-sided positions,” she said.

“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 other way or cross legal boundaries. The Berlinale stands for democracy and openness. We are explicitly opposed to discrimination and all forms of hatred.

“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.”

However Marion Bless, managing director of the German Lottery Foundation Berlin, which granted over €1m to the festival for the first time this year, told Berlin daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel’s Checkpoint newsletter: “Whenever funding is granted, it is important to us that our free and democratic basic order is respected.”

“Because of our German history this also clearly includes Israel’s right to exist,” she noted.

The furore surrounds anti-war remarks made in support of civilians in Gaza by award-winners and guests at the ceremony on February 24 that have been judged to be antisemitic and one-sided by some in Germany. The remarks were made in response to the ongoing military bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli government following the mass murder and rape of over 1,400 Israeli citizens carried out by Hamas on October 7.

This year’s edition of the Berlinale had been the first time that the festival had received backing from the Lottery Foundation which was founded in 1974 in West Berlin to support projects and institutions engaged in social, charitable, cultural, civic, youth and sports activities.

Funding totalling €390,000 was allocated to the Berlinale to promote greater inclusion in its activities during this year’s edition, including tickets for people with disabilities, an “early boarding” service for anyone requiring support to access screening venues as well as the provision of German audio description and selected film discussions being interpreted into the German sign language.

An additional € 650,000 had been made available by the foundation for the festival to hire cinema projection equipment, the design of the press centre, and for Berlinale advertising campaigns.

The Lottery Foundation has also provided financial support for the 7th edition of the Israel-Deutschland (ID) festival which will be held in Berlin from April 11-14. Featuring up to 120 artists and performers from Israel, Germany and the US, ID serves as a platform for showcasing the thriving Israeli cultural scene in Germany.

This festival has also received funding from, among others, the state minister for culture and media Claudia Roth whose department backed the Berlinale with €12.9m this year.