The organisers of the Berlin international film festival have disinvited five politicians from the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) from next week’s opening gala in the German capital, citing recent reports on the AfD’s alleged mass deportation plans.

“Especially in light of the revelations that have been made in recent weeks about explicitly anti-democratic positions and individual politicians of the AfD, it is important for us – as the Berlinale and as a team – to take an unequivocal stand in favour of an open democracy”, said Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, the directors of the film festival, which is known as the Berlinale.

“We have therefore today written to all previously invited AfD politicians and informed them that they are not welcome at the Berlinale.”

The AfD’s Berlin state chair and its spokesperson on cultural affairs had previously been invited to attend the festival’s opening night as part of a standard invitation to 100 Berlin state parliamentarians across the party spectrum.

While the AfD’s inclusion in these invitation quotas has not proven controversial at iterations of the Berlin film festival in the past, this year’s Berlinale opens amid an intense debate about whether the anti-immigration party’s increased radicalisation – and accompanying rise in the polls – poses a fundamental threat to Germany’s democratic constitution.

The debate was triggered by last month’s reports of a covert meeting at which AfD politicians and neo-Nazi activists had discussed a “masterplan” for mass deportations in the event of the party coming to power. The AfD has not denied that the removal of German citizens was raised at these meetings, but merely insisted they hadn’t been discussed in earnest.

Last week, an open letter signed by more than 200 film professionals, largely from within the German industry, protested against the AfD being invited to attend the opening gala, saying it was “incompatible” with the festival’s commitment to being a place of “empathy, awareness, and understanding”.

Until Thursday’s U-turn, the Berlinale’s organisers had stood by their decision, and received backing from Germany’s federal commissioner for culture, the Green politician Claudia Roth. A spokesperson for Roth said earlier this week the invitation was “in accordance with democratic practice and the federal government’s respect for the parliament and its elected delegates”.

In 2019, the then Berlinale director, Dieter Kosslick, had explicitly invited all members of the AfD to attend the festival, urging them to see a film about the reality of life in the Warsaw ghetto. “I will pay for each of their tickets,” said Kosslick, who was widely lauded for his comments at the time.

The Berlin film festival, one of Europe’s major film festivals after Cannes and Venice, opens on Thursday 15 February with the world premiere of Small Things Like These, based on the Irish author Claire Keegan’s bestselling historical novel.


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