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Berlinale Workers Demand ‘Immediate Ceasefire’ in Gaza and Call on Festival Leadership to Do the Same: ‘We Need Stronger Institutional Stances’

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A group of Berlinale workers have published an open letter to the festival, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and asking that leadership take a “stronger institutional stance” on what the statement calls “the current assault on Palestinian life.”

The letter, which was published on Instagram Monday night with a link to a Google Form for others to sign, was in response to the Berlinale’s Jan. 19 statement on the Israel-Hamas war. “Our sympathy goes out to all the victims of the humanitarian crises in the Middle East and elsewhere,” co-heads Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said, adding that “we take a firm stand against all forms of discrimination and are committed to intercultural understanding.”

The letter begins, “We are painfully aware of the unbearable dynamics of institutional inertia in the cultural sector in Germany, and we recognize the current limits imposed on speech. We want to hold the festival and ourselves to a higher standard. An international platform such as the Berlinale and we, in our roles as programmers, consultants, moderators, facilitators, and space holders, alongside further Berlinale workers, can and should voice dissent at the current assault on Palestinian life. We join a global solidarity movement to demand an immediate ceasefire and call for the release of all hostages.”

So far, the letter has been signed by 30 Berlinale workers, ranging from selection committee members for the festival’s various sections to moderators and guest liaisons.

“While we acknowledge isolated and minor attempts to create space for exchange, we would expect the program of this year’s festival to engage more actively and discursively with the urgency and reality of the moment by holding dialogue spaces of its own initiative and design in the big houses we call cinemas,” the statement continues. “Instead, we witness no initiatives that invite professionals and/or audiences into a dedicated space of discussion structured in a way that allows for a lengthy encounter between everyone.”

The Berlinale is holding a TinyHouse event during the festival where visitors can “have an open dialogue about the war in Israel and Gaza,” according to the program. “Rather than a large town square, a more intimate space is available to anyone interested in having a more personal discussion.” The festival runs from Feb. 15-25, and the TinyHouse will be open from Feb. 17-19.

“As the world bears witness to an inconceivable loss of civilian life in Gaza – including those of journalists, artists, and film workers – as well as the destruction of unique cultural heritage, we need stronger institutional stances,” the letter says. “We expect the festival to take a stance that is consistent with those taken in response to other events that have struck the international community in recent years.”

Representatives for the Berlinale did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

The Berlinale has also faced backlash leading up to its 74th edition for the invitation of the German far-right party AfD to the festival’s opening ceremony on Feb. 15. After widespread protests, the festival announced on Feb. 8 that it had withdrawn the politicians’ invitations.

“The current discourse has once again made it very clear how much the commitment to a free, tolerant society and standing against right-wing extremism are part of the Berlinale’s DNA,” the festival said in a statement at the time, adding that “for decades, the Berlinale has been committed to democratic values and against all forms of right-wing extremism.”

Read the full open letter and see the list of signees here.