Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Berlinale 2024. Protests on the red carpet at the festival’s inauguration

This year’s edition of the Berlinale was accompanied by controversy related to the organizers’ decision to invite members of the far-right AfD party to the event. Under the influence of environmental pressure, the Berlinale management finally withdrew the invitations and organized a happening before the ceremonial inauguration of the event.

About 50 people from the film community appeared on the red carpet in front of the Berlinale Palast, holding hands. At one point, the demonstrators turned on their cell phone flashlights and started chanting: “Let’s defend democracy”! This slogan was also displayed on the festival screen. The protesters also wore pins with the slogan: “Cinema unites.”

According to Variety, the protesters included: Jonathan Berlin, Meret Becker, Luisa Gaffron, Pegah Ferydoni, Roshanak Khodabakhsh Anne Leppin, Jannis Niewöhner, Murali Perumal, Katja Riemann, Lavinia Wilson and Jessica Schwarz.

“By deciding to cancel the invitation to AfD (politicians), the Berlinale has made a clear statement against right-wing extremism in Germany,” the event organizers said.

Before the official opening of the Berlinale, two other protests took place at Potsdamer Platz. One was an initiative of artists, the next was organized by members of the film community demanding better working conditions.

Also appearing on the red carpet in front of the Berlinale Palast were: actress Pheline Roggan with a necklace forming the inscription: “Fck AfD” and model Papis Loveday.

On Thursday, the chairman of the jury – American actress Lupita Nyong’o – was asked about the whole confusion. “I’m a foreigner here. I don’t know the intricacies of the local political situation. I’m glad I don’t have to answer this question,” Nyong’o admitted with relief.

However, German director Christian Petzold, who was on the jury, admitted that defending democratic values ​​goes beyond ostentatiously canceling invitations to members of a far-right party.

“I think five AfD people in the audience is no problem. We are not cowards. If we can’t stand five AfD people as part of the audience, we will lose our fight,” he said.

This year’s edition of the Berlinale is the last one prepared by the duo of Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. The directors hit an exceptionally difficult time. They organized the event twice under the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, under the sanitary regime. Once they moved it completely online. When planning the program, they were acutely aware of the consequences of the freezing of the film industry. The selection was smaller as many producers withdrew films, waiting for more favorable times. The directors’ contract expires in March.

In April, their function will be taken over by Tricia Tuttle, an American film journalist and former director of the BFI London Film Festival. There are many challenges ahead of her. It must not only strengthen the position of the Berlinale, but also rethink the formula of the event. Already this year, Chatrian and Rissenbeek reported problems with finding festival locations. Due to the pandemic, cinemas have reduced the number of seats in the auditorium. The agreement with the Berlinale Palast, where ceremonial shows with the participation of artists are held, is valid until 2027. The festival can extend it, but it must reach an agreement with the operator Live Nation on this matter. “Without cinemas, without large venues, the Berlinale itself will be different. I don’t know how many large cinemas will be able to survive in the future. I mean venues with over 500 or a thousand seats. It’s becoming more and more difficult to find such places,” Chatrian admitted in an interview with Screen Daily.

This year’s edition of the Berlinale will be inaugurated with the screening of the Irish-Belgian film “Small Things Like These” directed by Tim Mielants and starring Cillian Muprhy. It is an adaptation of the novel “Little Things Like These” by Irish writer Claire Keegan. The Oscar-nominated drama “The Quiet Girl” was based on her previous book “Foster”.

In the film, alongside Cillian Murphy, we will see: Eileen Walsh, Michelle Fairley and Emily Watson.

The script of the film is the work of the Irish playwright Enda Walsh, whose credits include, among others: the famous “Hunger” by Steve McQuenna with Michael Fassbender and the animated Netflix anthology “The House”.

Director Tim Mielants and actor Cillian Murphy have already worked together on the series “Peaky Blinders” – the Belgian creator directed six episodes of the third season of the production.

The action of “Small Things Like These” takes place during Christmas in 1985 and the main character of the production is Bill Furlong, a coal salesman played by Murphy, who begins to discover the dark secrets of a local monastery. The film will reveal the shocking truth about the asylum of the Magdalene Sisters – an educational institution run by Catholic orders to which young girls causing problems were sent.

“In ‘Small Things Like These’, Tim Mielants tells the story of a taciturn man with eyes wide open, as clear as the Irish sky. In ‘The Quiet Girl’ we have already seen Claire Keegan’s ability to portray inconspicuous, simple characters who cannot be forgotten. “Here, her delicate, complex and down-to-earth writing finds a wonderful interpreter in Cillian Murphy,” said Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian.

“Small Things Like These” is one of the 20 titles nominated for the Golden Bear. Apart from him, those competing for the statuette include “The Empire” by Bruno Dumont, about a unique child who starts a war between good and evil, and “Foreign Tongue” by Claire Burger, about the meeting of two teenagers. The supporting characters were created by Nina Hoss and Chiara Mastroianni.

“La Cocina” by Alonso Ruizpalacios captivates with its stylish black and white shots. The plot – starring Raul Briones Carmona and Rooney Mara – was set in a New York bar where the employees include illegal immigrants. One of them, a cook, falls in love with a waitress. She does not intend to engage in a relationship with a man without documents.

Love is also the theme of “Another End” by Pier Messina with Gael Garcia Bernal and Bérénice Bejo in the cast. The main character Sal suffers after the loss of his beloved Zoe. At his sister’s persuasion, he decides to use the latest technology that allows a dead person to be brought back to life. Thanks to this tool, he can spend some more time with Zoe and tell her what he hasn’t been able to say before.

In “Suspended Time” Olivier Assayas returns to the first months of the pandemic to recall how isolation affected interpersonal bonds. The heroes of his picture are a film director and a music journalist – brothers who spend the lockdown at their family home with their partners. In the film “Pepe”, Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias voices a hippopotamus that is transported from Africa to Colombia, straight to the private zoo of a local drug lord.

Mati Diop will also appear in the main competition, whose previous work “Atlantyk” won the Grand Prix of the Cannes festival. The French-Senegalese director made the documentary “Dahomey”, devoted to works of art looted in the 19th century by French colonial troops from the kingdom of Dahomey, located in Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. In 2021, France returned some of the looted artifacts to the Republic of Benin, located in the former kingdom.

The winner of the Golden Bear will be announced on Saturday, February 24. It will be selected by: Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o, American actor, screenwriter and director Brady Corbet, Hong Kong director and screenwriter Ann Hui, German director and screenwriter Christian Petzold, Spanish director Albert Serra, Italian actress Jasmine Trinca and Ukrainian writer and poet Oksana Zabużko.