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Berlinale Tackles #MeToo Debate, Accused of Sexual Violence Hypocrisy

Having come out in favor of the #MeToo campaign, which is exposing sexual abuse of women, the Berlin Film Festival is now wrestling with a social media pushback. Berlin has invited South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk, who was recently accused of sexually assaulting an actress, to screen his film “Human, Space, Time and Human” at the festival. South Korean netizens are accusing the Berlinale of hypocrisy.

The festival rejects the criticism, saying instead that it is a platform for discussion.

Minister of State and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and media professor Monika Gruetters will give sexual harassment the highest possible prominence. She is expected to speak about #MeToo in her Berlinale opening address Thursday night.

Nevertheless, critics are calling a foul. On one hand, as a politically aware film event, Berlin will this year be holding multiple events on sexual violence and women’s rights, and their position in the film industry. On the other hand, helmer Kim’s films, including “The Isle” and “Moebius,” have frequently been accused of misogyny; his latest screens in Panorama while he is also among the jurors at the Asian Brilliant Stars awards event next Wednesday, backed by Berlinale lead sponsor Tesiro, the Chinese jewelry firm.

The actress who accused Kim and who does not have to be named according to Korean law on sexual violence cases, has this week done interviews and taken to social media to voice her dismay. “The decision to invite Kim is deeply sad and extremely hypocritical,” she told the AFP news agency.

In a high-profile case that emerged last year, the actress accused Kim of sexual assault after he slapped her on the first day of filming his 2013 picture “Moebius.” Kim confirms that he slapped the woman, who later left the film and was replaced. But he said that he was directing the performance and providing her an “acting lesson.”

The case went to court last month. Kim agreed to pay a fine of KRW5 million ($4,600) for slapping the woman. But the court dismissed the sexual assault charge.

Kim Ki-Duk was sentenced to the payment of a fine, which he accepted. Further accusations of attempted sexual harassment were rejected by the court due to lack of evidence. The actress is now publicly reiterating the accusations from 2013. The director still denies them,” the Berlinale told Variety in a statement from festival director Dieter Kosslick. “Berlinale Panorama has decided to eschew prejudgment and will present Kim Ki-Duk’s most recent film ‘Human, Space, Time and Human’ in the 2018 Panorama program. However, the Berlinale condemns all kinds of violence on set — be it of sexual or other origin.”

“Kim Ki-Duk’s film ‘Human, Space, Time and Human’ broaches the subject of violence perpetrated by men against their fellow humans, in part through the use of graphic images, and can be understood as an allegory on savage humanity. We made a conscious curatorial choice in selecting the film for presentation, and in inviting the filmmaker to discuss the film. Kim has agreed to participate in this debate and any debate that may go beyond the film itself. We decided not to accept quick answers to complicated questions, and we want to create a space for open dialogue — in the cinema and beyond,” said Paz Lazaro, new head of the Panorama section.

“The debate triggered by the Weinstein scandal is important and has led to the #MeToo movement. #MeToo has exposed the devastating extent of these sorts of unacceptable conditions. Beyond the subject of sexualized violence, the debate invites us to fundamentally challenge the power relationships inherent in our society. The international resonance that #MeToo has been met with has quickly made it obvious that the problem is not confined to Hollywood: across the world, the individuals affected by such abuse have found the courage to go public with their stories. In Germany as well, ever more voices can be heard calling out concrete incidents occurring in the film and media branches,” said the festival in a statement formally announcing its formal support for the #MeToo movement.

Last week, a survey of women working in the South Korean film industry found that some 20% had been forced into unwanted sexual contact. One in 10 had experienced “unwanted sexual demands.” The survey was conducted between June and October last year by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) and Women in Film Korea.

On Saturday, the Berlinale will collaborate with the Swedish Film Institute, Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Germany and WIFT Nordic, in a seminar called “Closing the Gap. A Seminar With Creatives and Financiers on How to Take Action Towards 50/50 by 2020.” Among the panelists, Daniela Elstner, (CEO of Doc & Film International,) who during the AFM last year accused a former colleague of sexual assault.

On Monday, it will hold a panel discussion called “Culture Wants Change — A Conversation on Sexual Harassment in Film, Television and Theatre,” which will discuss how to prevent sexual attacks and improve the situation of those affected.

And, in an unlikely initiative, the Berlinale will itself provide anonymous and free of charge counseling for people affected by violence and discrimination.

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