Berlinale Co-Director Speaks Out Against Misuse of Antisemitism Accusations

Short Summary:

Carlo Chatrian, the outgoing co-director of Berlinale, criticized the use of antisemitism accusations for political aims following pro-Gaza speeches at the festival's award ceremony. He emphasized the festival as a dialogue space and expressed solidarity with those facing threats due to their statements. Notable figures, including Berlin's mayor, criticized the speeches, but Chatrian maintains that criticism of Israel should be allowed.

Berlinale's outgoing co-director, Carlo Chatrian, recently took a stand against the criticism directed towards pro-Gaza and anti-war speeches made during this year's film festival award ceremony. In a statement shared via Instagram, Chatrian, alongside head of programming Mark Peranson, addressed the controversy that has enveloped the festival following the closing night on February 24.

The festival, renowned for its role as a platform for diverse political and social dialogues, found itself at the center of a political storm. Chatrian and Peranson's statement emphasized the Berlinale's commitment to being a "place for dialogue and exchange," lamenting the shift in discourse post-festival, where accusations of weaponizing antisemitism for political purposes have surfaced.

The closing night, which traditionally celebrates cinematic achievements, turned contentious when filmmakers, including Brazil's Juliana Rojas (Cidade: Campo), Ben Russell, and Guillaume Cailleau (Direct Action), and Golden Bear winner Mati Diop (Dahomey), expressed their support for the Palestinian people. These actions drew sharp criticism from political figures, including Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner and Joe Chialo, senator for cultural affairs, accusing the festival of hosting anti-Israeli propaganda.

However, Chatrian and his fellow co-director Mariette Rissenbeek defended the festival's integrity, asserting that the statements made were not antisemitic but expressions of empathy towards the Palestinian civilian population. They argue that such discussions, even if one-sided, are crucial for a festival that prides itself on being a "window of the free world" — a space where films from diverse perspectives can be showcased and political views are not scrutinized.

The debate has highlighted the fine line festivals like the Berlinale must navigate between fostering free expression and avoiding political controversies. Chatrian's parting message reinforces the festival's stance on freedom of speech and its hope for the Berlinale to remain a platform for open dialogue, unencumbered by political and media-driven accusations.