Berlin Film Festival caught in anti-semitism row, German officials begin probe

The 74th annual film festival, which is also called the Berlinale, held between February 15 and 25, is reportedly in the eye of a storm.
Last Updated 27 February 2024, 11:32 IST

The Berlin Film Festival - which brought the creme de la creme of the film world together to the German city - is in the eye of a storm for a different reason altogether.

The 74th annual film festival, also known as the Berlinale, held between February 15 and 25, is reportedly under the scanner over an anti-semitism row with a German agency already probing it.

According to a report in the AFP news agency, in the awards ceremony held on the penultimate day of the Berlinale 2024, several winners were accused of making anti-semitic remarks on stage in relation to Israel's military assault, which began after an attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra said on stage that the Palestinian population was being "massacred" by Israel, to thunderous applause from the audience.

And to add fuel to fire, Culture Minister Claudia Roth and Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner were found applauding Adra's remarks, the pictures of which were splashed in local tabloid media the next day.

It's important to recall that Germany, with its own dark history from World War II when millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis, has strongly supported Israel following the October 7 attack by Hamas.

With Adra's statements creating furore, the organisers quickly switched to damage control mode, as they put out a statement that winners' remarks were "independent, individual opinions (which) in no way reflect the position of the festival."

It may be noted that the Hamas attack on October 7 killed more than 1,100 people in Israel, mostly civilians.

In return, Israel's retaliatory military offensive has resulted in the death of more than 29,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Though the organisers of Berlinale 2024 have initiated a probe against the anti-semitism remarks, the controversy refuses to die.

"It is unacceptable that... the terrorist attack by Hamas on 7 October was not mentioned," the agency quoted government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann as saying in Berlin on Monday.

Hoffmann also said that Chancellor Olaf Scholz "agrees that such a one-sided stance cannot be allowed to stand."

(Published 27 February 2024, 11:32 IST)

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