Meryl Streep on Diversity at Berlin Film Festival: ‘We’re All Africans’

Meryl Streep on Diveristy: 'We're All
Axel Schmidt/AP Photo

Hot button industry topics of equality and diversity were on the agenda at the opening day, jury press conference of the Berlin Film Festival.

“I have no idea how to run a jury,” said Meryl Streep, this year’s jury president, in response to the inevitable media question about criteria for judging the competition movies. “But in the end I have two votes and (the other jury members) only have one each.”

Berlin has a reputation for being a politically minded festival, and Streep did not shy away from promoting an agenda of equality and inclusion. “(Equality) of genders, races, ethnicities, religion,” she opined. “This jury is also evidence that women are included and can even dominate – that is unusual in bodies that make decisions.”

When asked if she understood films from the Arab world and North Africa, Streep said: “There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we’re all from Africa originally,” adding, “We’re all Africans, we’re all Berliners,” in reference to John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

“A compassionate heart is important as an actress; it makes me want to watch carefully each person’s work,” Streep said. She combined that with her approach to judging the competition winners. “I don’t think I (particularly) watch acting. I am very susceptible. I get swept away.”

Her “Africans” remark quickly drew the ire of social media, with many readers calling the Oscar-winner racially insensitive.

The Berlin festival, however, said her comments were being misconstrued.

“We don’t consider Meryl Streep’s comments to be in any way insensitive,” a spokesman for the Berlin festival told Variety“As she made it clear throughout the press conference, she is committed to inclusiveness of all ethnicities, religions and genders. She underlined that we are all the same, all equal.”

Later, Sight and Sound editor Nick James, who’s also on the jury, applauded the Berlin festival organizers for including him. “I want to thank the festival for having the chutzpah to put a critic on the jury,” he said. “It used to happen a lot in the 20th century.”

The jury — which also includes German actor Lars Eidinger, French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, British actor Clive Owen, Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher, and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska — gets to award eight prizes including the Golden Bear for best film and seven Silver Bears in performance and technical categories.

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  1. I don’t know why this was controversial. It’s true, we all come from the continent of Africa. It’s proven. She’s just stating facts.

  2. Einstein says:

    Of course Ms. Streep is exactly correct as all white folk are descendants of Africans and dark skin phenotype due to the ability of genetic mutations that took place long ago. Denying that reality puts you in the same class with of others who are labeled; idiot.

  3. Denice says:

    True….BUT white people can’t say that. other people can and it shows unity but when a white person says it it sounds….not right.

    • Michelle says:

      Ah yes what a perfect example of reverse racism. Get over yourself, Denice. People–despite their color–can say what ever the f*** they want to say.

  4. bda31175 says:

    So … whose calling me a jelly donut? Because I take umbrage with that.


    The British empire created Afrocentric Evolutionary Theory to keep Africans in the perpetual state of being primitive versions of themselves. Afrocentrism and the British empire were astounding historical failures. The Americans are a species of a single origin indigenous to their own hemisphere and not descended from across any ocean, and Streep lives off the luxurious dole of being a US Citizen of uneducated alien heritage. She’s lucky to be given the ability to bathe in the splendor of her profound anti-scientific antiAmerican ignorance and primitive stupidity.

    • GKN says:

      Americans are not descended from anyone across the ocean? Oh, you mean God planted them here directly, with Adam and Eve? So glad you set the “scientific” record straight! And cured us of our “profound ignorance”!

      • Tricia Williams says:

        Sorry, but indigenous people of the Americas did not originate in the Americas. Their genetic line is very specific, but it is inexorably shared with the Asian peoples along the far east coast of Siberia.

  6. craigbhill says:

    All very intelligent comments. The Berlin festival is no-nonsense and encompassing.

  7. IT--two--IT says:

    INTEL RUN franchise slum Hollywood and its ‘milestones’.


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