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“We have… today written to all previously invited AfD politicians and informed them that they are not welcome at the Berlinale,” Berlinale’s directors Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said in a statement on Thursday.
The invitations offered to AfD politicians Kristin Brinker and Ronald Gläser, both members of the Berlin State Parliament, led to a group of film professionals from Berlin and abroad signing an open letter to the festival protesting the decision. The letter stated the invitation to AfD politicians was “incompatible” with the Berlinale’s commitment “to being a place of ’empathy, awareness and understanding,’” the filmmakers wrote.
Fest organizers in their announcement acknowledged “an intense discussion in the cultural sector, in the press and on social media as well as within the Berlinale team about the invitations of AfD politicians, a right-wing extremist party, to the opening of the Berlinale.”
“Especially in light of the revelations that have been made in recent weeks about explicitly anti-democratic positions and individual politicians of the AfD, it is important for us — as the Berlinale and as a team — to take an unequivocal stand in favour of an open democracy,” Rissenbeek and Chatrian added in their statement.
The Berlinale is largely state-funded, with the federal government providing around $14 million to the festival annually. The AfD is not currently part of the government federally or in any of the German states, but the party has been gaining support and is currently polling second nationwide at around 20 percent of the vote.
“In times when right-wing extremists are moving into parliaments, the Berlinale wants to take a clear position by taking a clear stance with today’s disinvitation of the AfD. The discussion on how to deal with AfD politicians also affects many other organisations and festivals. This debate must be conducted across society as a whole and together with all democratic parties,” the festival added.
The controversy over the AfD politician invites also follows in recent weeks hundreds of thousands of Germans taking to the streets to protest a report by the investigative group Correctiv that revealed details of a meeting between senior AfD members and wealthy German corporate figures where they discussed a plot to deport asylum seekers and German citizens of foreign origin en masse once they came to power.