The opening night of the Berlinale was all about politics, from the red carpet, where Green Party politician and Bundestag vice president Claudia Roth sported a black dress adorned with the word “Unpresidented” in large letters – an apparent dig at U.S. President Donald Trump’s spelling aptitude and/or his perceived behavior as commander-in-chief – to officials and speakers taking the stage to talk about free speech, free art and resistance to oppression.
At Thursday’s ceremony in the Berlinale Palast, the new U.S. administration even took some hits from the evening’s host, German comedian and actress Anke Engelke. She had a question for international guests: “Are you here for the festival? Or is someone keeping you from going back to your home country?” That got a big laugh.
Engelke drew loud laughs as she greeted the jury, noting that last year Meryl Streep served as jury president. “She did a good job, but we found out later on Twitter that we were fell for someone who is the most overrated actress in Hollywood. We can’t take her again.” Introducing jury president Verhoeven, Engelke added, “He’s a feminist and he brings hope and courage … women spread their legs for him even though they already have the role.”
And another hit: Mentioning the success of the hit movie “Toni Erdmann,” Engelke said, “It’s about an old man with a weird hairdo who has a troubling relationship with his daughter – just what America loves.”
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But it wasn’t all laughs. German commissioner for culture and media Monika Grütters and Berlin Mayor Michael Müller were also on hand to tout the local industry.
Quoting U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, Grütters welcomed “all international guests to the city as Berliners in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.”
Müller added, “After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we said never again would walls divide people. We mean that now more than ever.”
The fest’s lineup offers a politically charged selection of international works, many of which offer stark parallels to the current plight of displaced people and the rise of right-wing extremism. The opening night film, Etienne Comar’s French drama “Django,” is also politically charged: it’s the true story of jazz guitarist-composer Django Reinhardt, who, as a minority Sinti, was forced to flee Paris during the Nazi occupation in WWII.
Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick welcomed guests who braved sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures on the red carpet outside the Berlinale Palast at Potsdamer Platz for the fest’s glitzy opening ceremony before introducing the international jury on stage.
This year’s jury, which will award eight prizes, including the Golden Bear, to competition films, includes Dutch helmer Verhoeven, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Diego Luna, German actress Julia Jentsch, Chinese filmmaker Wang Quan’an, Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha Fourati and Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
The fest’s lineup offers a politically charged selection of international works, many of which offer stark parallels to the current plight of displaced people and the rise of right-wing extremism. The 24 competition films, of which 18 are vying for the Golden Bear, include include Stanley Tucci’s “Final Portrait,” James Mangold’s “Logan,” Danny Boyle’s “T2 Trainspotting,” Sally Potter’s “The Party” and Volker Schlöndorff’s “Return to Montauk.”
The evening’s guests included Richard Gere, who stars in Oren Moverman’s competition entry “The Dinner,” which screens Friday. Among the local talent and high-profile guests were Sandra Hüller (“Toni Erdmann”), directors Wim Wenders, Schlöndorff and Rosa von Praunheim, “Game of Throne” stars Sibel Kekilli and Tom Wlaschiha, actresses Maria Schrader (“Deutschland 83”), Hannah Herzsprung, Christiane Paul, Heike Makatsch and Green Party politician and Bundestag Vice President Roth.