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Leading German Filmmaker Says Berlinale Far-Right Invitation Is “Highly Problematic”

EXCLUSIVE: Dennis Gansel, director of acclaimed film The Wave and Sky TV series Das Boot, has become the most prominent German filmmaker to call out the Berlin Film Festival’s decision to invite members of far-right party AfD (Alternative For Germany) to this year’s opening ceremony on February 15.

In a message sent to Deadline, the award-winning filmmaker said: “To invite people from the far-right to a film festival which represents cultural diversity and liberal virtues is highly problematic.”

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He continued: “The numbers behind the AfD party in Germany are rising constantly, so civil resistance on any level is of utmost importance.”

However, the director went on to caution that a ban on the party would be counter-productive:

“Let’s not forget that a ban of a political party or banning of its members will not save us in the long run. We must continue to communicate and argue with the supporters of the AfD. Many are protest voters who can and must be argued with. That’s our biggest chance to avoid further damage to our democracy.”

The subject is close to Gansel’s heart. The filmmaker, who most recently directed 11 episodes of WWII series Das Boot, is best known cinematically for 2008 Sundance box office breakout The Wave (Die Welle), a stirring political allegory in which a teacher creates a social experiment to show his students what life is like under a dictatorship. A German Film Awards and Bavaria Film Awards winner, Gansel is also known for directing Jason Statham in 2016 sequel Mechanic: Resurrection and two movies in the Jim Button kids franchise.

As Deadline revealed over the weekend, Berlin, which runs February 15 – 25, has come under fire for inviting two members of Germany’s far-right AfD party to its opening night. As a publicly backed event, organizers are following festival protocol which dictates that a cross-section of democratically elected politicians should be in attendance.

That decision has angered many, with more than 250 in the industry signing a petition condemning the move. The petition has subsequently been taken down due to fear of reprisal against its organizers, we understand, but the controversy has been widely picked up by German media.

According to German national Bild, a number of other German actors, writers and directors have voiced their disappointment on social media.

The Berlinale issued a statement to us on Saturday in which it said it “stands against right-wing extremism” and that it would write to the AfD to express this “clearly and emphatically”.

The invitation has been backed by German Culture Minister Claudia Roth who told local press the invites were sent at the “suggestion” of her office.

The AfD is currently polling second in Germany, but hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the party, whose ideology has been described as anti-Islam, anti-immigration, German nationalist, Eurosceptic and denying of human-caused climate change.

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