Navigating the Berlinale’s Controversial Invitation Through the Lens of African Cinemas

As a US-based journalist with a focus on African cinemas scheduled to attend the Berlinale, and who is admittedly not fully versed in all nuances of the controversy surrounding the festival’s decision to invite members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to its 2024 opening ceremony, I still feel a responsibility to speak on the matter, albeit from a broad familiarity with the issues.

The Berlinale’s decision has sparked controversy and protests given its contradiction of the festival’s commitment to empathy, awareness, and understanding.

The contention lies in the incompatibility of the AfD’s political stance with the festival’s values, particularly concerning inclusivity and diversity in the arts and culture sector.

Additionally, it risks potentially alienating filmmakers and audiences who seek platforms that align with values of empathy and understanding.

This is especially true for film professionals from Africa and the diaspora whose works have historically challenged established political and social conventions within societies or political systems.

One of my roles is to spotlight issues and facilitate discourse, especially on topics like this. Therefore, acknowledging the complexities of the controversy, I’m inviting input from the global African film community, particularly those in Germany, as well as those planning to attend the Berlinale.

It’s crucial to share our varied views, ensuring a diverse range of perspectives that inform the discourse, particularly on how such decisions impact the representation and inclusivity of African cinema on a global stage.

Your insights and specific reactions are invaluable in understanding, especially for those of us, like myself, not fully steeped in the intricacies, as well as for individuals around the world entirely unfamiliar but curious about the situation.

Feel free to email me directly:

Below is the Berlinale’s public statement of the controversy, published on their Instagram page today:

The Berlinale stands for basic democratic values and against right-wing extremism and supports all demonstrations and other initiatives against the undemocratic currents. We clearly reject right-wing extremist or right-wing populist thinking and are concerned to observe that anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim resentment, hate speech and other anti-democratic attitudes are on the rise in Germany.

For weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have been taking to the streets in Germany to defend our democracy and our values. This sends a clear signal of how the majority in Germany thinks and opposes right-wing populism and anti-democracy.

A number of members and representatives of the AfD hold positions that are deeply anti-democratic and contradict the values of the Berlinale and the values of our employees. We are committed to opposing all forms of exclusion and discrimination and consistently stand up for the values of an open-minded and liberal democracy.

As for the invitations of AFD members to the opening of the Berlinale: Members of the AfD were elected to the Bundestag and the Berlin House of Representatives in the last elections.

Accordingly, they are also represented in political cultural committees and other bodies. That is a fact, and we have to accept it as such.

Both the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the Berlin Senate receive invitation quotas for the Berlinale, which are allocated to the democratically elected members of all parties in the Bundestag and House of Representatives.

It was against this background that the AfD representatives were invited to the Berlinale.

People – including elected representatives – who act contrary to our fundamental values are not welcome at the Berlinale.

We will express this clearly and emphatically in a personal letter to the AfD representatives as well as on other occasions.

The 74th Berlinale will run Feb. 15-24, with Lupita Nyong’o presiding over the main jury.