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Berlinale Declares Fest A Place Of Open Discussion Amid Middle East Crisis: “We Are Concerned To See Anti-Semitism, Anti-Muslim Resentment & Hate Speech Are Spreading”

The Berlinale put out a statement expressing its sympathy for the “victims of the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East” and making it clear that its 74th edition would be a place for filmmakers on all sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, at its press conference on Monday.

Festival co-heads Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek read out the statement ahead of unveiling the Berlinale’s Competition and Encounters titles on Monday.

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It followed in the wake of demonstrations at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend as pro-Palestinian protestors hit Park City on Sunday, closing down its major highway of Main Street.

“Festivals provide a space for artistic expression and enable peaceful dialogue. They are places of encounter and exchange and contribute to international understanding. We believe that through the power of films and open discussions, we can help foster empathy, awareness, understanding, even and especially in painful times like these,” read out Chatrian.

“Our sympathy goes out to all the victims of the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and elsewhere. We want everyone’s suffering to be recognised, and for our programme to be open to discussing different perspectives on the complexity of the world. We are also concerned to see that anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim resentment and hate speech are spreading in Germany and around the world. As a cultural institution, we take a firm stand against all forms of discrimination and are committed to intercultural understanding.”

Rissenbeek also detailed a variety of initiatives taking place within the framework of the festival this aimed at fostering open dialogue about the Middle East crisis.

They included a special space called the Tiny House as well as a panel entitled “Filmmaking in times of conflict – future perspectives”, the details of which will be announced at a later date.

The Tiny House space is being put together in collaboration with Shai Hoffmann, who is a German citizen of Israeli parentage, and Jouanna Hassoun, who arrived in Germany as a child as a Palestinian refugee. The pair have been working together to advocate for peace and understanding between both sides of the conflict.

“It’s a tiny house not an agora but it’s intended to facilitate individual personal dialogue,” explained Rissenbeek.

The Berlinale statement and planned events for the 74th edition come as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to spill over into the festival circuit.

Prior to the the Sundance protests, both the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and the Stockholm Film Festival found themselves caught up in the conflict last fall with festival management caught on the back foot on how to respond.

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