Politics Take Centerstage at 2017 Berlinale Film Festival

Politics Take Centerstage at 2017 Berlinale Film Festival

Following last year's focus on the world's refugee crisis, the recent 67th edition saw actors and directors setting their sights on the political arena.

Following last year's focus on the world's refugee crisis, the recent 67th edition saw actors and directors setting their sights on the political arena.

Text: Nadja Sayej

The 67th Berlinale International Film Festival just rolled up the red carpets after a two-week frenzy of screenings, celebrities, and controversial press conferences, which made this edition of the annual celebration potentially the most political yet.

From films featuring musicians on the run from the Nazis to Syrian refugees in Scandinavia, there are stories inspired by our “daily apocalypse,” according to Berlinale director Dieter Kosslich.

Richard Gere, who was in town for the premiere of The Dinner, used the press conference to criticize Trump for his refugee policy, saying he is conflating the words “refugee and terrorist” and inspiring hate crimes around the world. Jury member and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal told the audience “I want people around the world to know that there are many, many people in my country that are ready to resist.” Patrick Stewart, who was present for the latest X-Men film Logan, said he felt “ashamed” of being from a country that has decided to leave Europe, calling Brexit “a mistake.”

With a focus on resistance movements, the festival presented a biopic of Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, who freed Brazil from colonial Portugal in the 18th century, as well as Django, a film based on the life of jazz musician Django Reinhardt who lived in a time when Nazi Germany banned jazz music. Bruce LaBruce premiered Ulrike’s Brain, a film about left-wing militant Ulrike Meinhof, while the documentary I Am Not Your Negro follows the life of novelist James Baldwin and the assassination of civil rights activists Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was also in attendance. He is working on a new documentary about the refugee crisis called Human Flow, and said he thinks “all films should be political because we are living in a world that needs a new voice.” Around the festival, there was a peaceful protest calling to free Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker who has been jailed in Russia, and another at the European Film Market to criticize censorship in Turkey.

Some called this year’s festival an SOS for the world, but really, isn’t art always meant to push buttons? It’s meant to push boundaries and speak up against injustice and, hopefully, film will continue to do so in an ever chilling time.

Credits: Photography Nadja Sayej

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