Berlin Film Festival files criminal charges after hacking

The Berlin Film Festival said Monday it had filed criminal charges after the Panorama section's Instagram, which was used to spread anti-Semitic messages, was hacked.

After a politically charged edition, the festival organizers also tried to distance the Berlinale management from the positions taken by some of the award winners at the closing ceremony on Saturday.

“The Instagram channel of the Berlinale Panorama section was briefly hacked and anti-Semitic graphic text posts about the Middle East war with the Berlinale logo were posted on the channel,” organizers said on Sunday, a day after the festival concluded. These statements are not issued by the festival and do not represent the festival’s position.”

The organizers added: “The Berlinale condemns this criminal act in the strongest possible terms and has deleted the posts and opened an investigation. In addition, the Berlinale has filed criminal charges against persons unknown. The State Criminal Office (LKA) has launched an investigation.”

Before and during this year's edition, the festival's guests and politics served as a starting point for heated discussion about the war in Ukraine, the war in Palestine, anti-Semitism, and far-right political movements in Germany.

Some took advantage of the closing ceremony held on Saturday to make further statements. Among the most powerful directors was American director Ben Russell, who accepted an award for his film “Direct Action Encounters” while wearing the keffiyeh, or sign of Palestinian solidarity.

Basil Adra, co-director of No Other Land, used his acceptance speech to say it's hard to celebrate while his fellow Palestinians in Gaza are slaughtered and massacred. He called on Germany to “respect the calls of the United Nations and stop sending weapons to Israel.”

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The festival's statement issued on Monday appeared to wish the controversy away, while also acknowledging that it could do nothing about the legal comments.

“We understand the anger that statements made by some award winners have been deemed too biased and, in some cases, inappropriate. In the run-up to and during our festival, we have made very clear the Berlinale’s view on the war in the Middle East and that we do not share unilateral positions. However The Berlinale sees itself – today, as in the past – as a platform for open dialogue between cultures and countries. The festival said in a statement attributed to the conference participants: “We must therefore also tolerate opinions and statements that contradict ours, as long as these statements do not discriminate.” Against persons or groups of people in a racist or discriminatory manner that is similar to or exceeds legal limits.” -President Mariette Riesenbeek.

“In our view, it would have been appropriate in terms of content if the award winners and guests at the awards ceremony had also made more differentiated statements on this issue,” Riesenbeck said.

“We want to exchange ideas with other social and political institutions on how to conduct a social discourse on this very controversial topic in Germany – with international perspectives included – without considering individual statements as anti-Semitic or anti-Palestinian. We have to confront this controversial topic – as an international film festival And as a society as a whole.

Euronews reported that after No Other Earth's acceptance speech, other co-director Yuval Abraham received death threats. Berlin Mayor Kai Wegener criticized Abraham and Adra's speeches. He wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “What happened yesterday at the Berlinale was unacceptable relativism. “There is no place for anti-Semitism in Berlin, and this also applies to the arts.”

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Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Germany, also participated. “Once again, the German cultural scene shows its bias by rolling out the red carpet exclusively for artists who promote the delegitimization of Israel. […] The anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speech was met with applause.”

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