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Berlinale: Richard Gere Blasts Trump Over Refugee Policies

Actor Richard Gere excoriated U.S. President Donald Trump for spreading fear, saying the most vile thing he had done was “conflating two words: refugee and terrorist.”

“That is his biggest crime, conflating those two words. A refugee is someone who seeks refuge; it is someone we need to help,” Gere told a news conference at the Berlinale on Friday. “The number of hate crimes in the U.S. went up enormously when Donald Trump began running for president. There are leaders who spread fear. It’s happening here, too.”

Gere spoke after a screening of his competition film “The Dinner,” an intense drama about two families dealing with a horrifying crime committed by the sons and, in a larger sense, with issues of anger and politics.

Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, and Rebecca Hall also star in the film, an adaptation of Herman Koch’s Dutch novel of the same name. The pic marks Gere’s fourth project with director Oren Moverman, who co-wrote 2007’s “I’m Not There,” directed Gere in 2014’s “Time Out of Mind” and produced the upcoming “Norman.”

For Moverman, anger has been a key element his other works, including “The Messenger” (a 2009 Silver Bear winner for the writer-director’s screenplay), “Rampart” and “Time Out of Mind,” which also starred Gere, and is front and center in “The Dinner.”

“I love characters that act as a conduit for anger, like Woody Harrelson’s character in ‘The Messenger’ and Ben Vereen in ‘Time Out of Mind’ – a conduit that expresses anger at social issues. There’s a lot to be angry about right now.”

Moverman mentioned the significant role of Gettysburg, Penn., in the film, which he described as “the bloodiest place in America.” The site of some 50,000 deaths during the American Civil War “is a metaphor for original sin. You see that coming to the surface today.”

Asked about the mental state of his angry and troubled character, the brother of Gere’s ambitious politician, Coogan drew laughs when he conceded that yes, he likely did suffer from mental illness, “but compared to the president of the United States, it looks more like a mild headache.”

In his final comment, Gere called for a rejection of the politics of hate and divisiveness: “We need to be more careful how we talk to each other. We are all in this together. We are all human beings, and we have to live together on this little planet.”

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