×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

German Regional Film Fund Boss Ousted Over Meeting With Far-Right Party Leader

The German regional funder HessenFilm und Medien has fired its managing director, Hans Joachim Mendig, following an industry backlash over a meeting he had with a leader of the far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Mendig met with Joerg Meuthen, AfD leader and member of the European Parliament, and PR consultant Moritz Hunzinger in a Frankfurt restaurant in July. Meuthen posted a photo of the meeting on Instagram, writing: “Very lively and constructive political exchange of ideas today in Frankfurt” with Hunzinger and Mendig.

It wasn’t until the magazine Journal Frankfurt published an article about the meeting earlier this month that industry outrage and demands for Mendig’s resignation erupted. In addition to the party’s anti-immigrant views, one of AfD’s leaders, Marc Jongen, has been extremely critical of German film funding and has called for the entire system to be “ideologically cleansed” and reevaluated.

Mendig maintained that his meeting with Meuthen was a private matter unrelated to Hessenfilm, which has backed such films as Mia Hansen-Love’s Silver Bear-winning drama “Things to Come” and German TV hit “Bad Banks.”

Popular on Variety

But the German Film Academy said in a statement that Mendig had failed to explain what kind of exchange he had had with Meuthen and that, as head of taxpayer-funded HessenFilm, Mendig must be familiar with the AfD’s views and its criticism of Germany’s film industry.

Last year, AfD leader Jongen blasted the country’s film funders for financing films like Berlinale winner “Touch Me Not,” which he described as “crypto-porn.” He took the Berlinale jury to task for honoring films that he said “revolve around sex, masturbation, sadomasochism,” center on “an aging lesbian couple,” and criticize Poland’s shift to the right politically Jongen also reportedly called for “ethnic homogeneity” as the “basis of democracy” in a speech in Bremen’s state parliament last year, the Film Academy said.

The academy said the public had “a legitimate interest” in learning about Mendig’s exchange with the leader of a party critical of Germany’s film-funding system. HessenFilm’s stated prime directive was to support “only those projects and productions that value human dignity, respect fundamental rights and promote respect for life,” the academy added. The funder’s mission is also mainly to promote “films of different areas and genres as well as artistically and culturally significant, socially relevant, high-quality film and television productions and other audiovisual projects.”

These guidelines are “difficult to reconcile with the cultural and political demands of the AfD,” the academy wrote, and if Mendig did not offer a substantive explanation of his exchange with the AfD, his dismissal would be justified.

Mendig’s fate appeared sealed Sept. 18 when HessenFilm employees signed a public statement expressing concern about the “political explosiveness” of the meeting that had led to an increasing number of filmmakers to boycott the funder. The staffers distanced themselves from “any party, organization or ethos that seeks to restrict the freedom of art and culture or questions our freedom, equality and democracy” and expressed support for “cultural diversity, openness, tolerance, equality and equal treatment.”

Hesse state art and culture minister Angela Dorn called a meeting of HessenFilm’s supervisory board Tuesday in view of the many filmmakers who had stated they would no longer work with the funder as well as resignations of jury members and possible damage to the image of the state of Hesse and HessenFilm.

Hannes Karnick of Initiative Hessen Film, an organization representing the state’s film sector, said it was less about Mendig and more about saving the state’s reputation. “We are only marginally interested in this personality,” Karnick told Tagesspiegel. “We want to avert damage from Hesse as a location, which already has it hard enough.”

More Film

  • Shannon Hoon

    Live Nation Productions Boards Danny Clinch-Helmed Blind Melon Doc 'All I Can Say'

    Live Nation Productions and Double E Entertainment have signed on as executive producers of “All I Can Say,” the documentary film featuring footage shot entirely by the late Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon. The film’s title is taken from the opening lines of Blind Melon’s instantly recognizable 1993 smash, “No Rain.” Culled from Hoon’s archives, the [...]

  • Tom Hanks stars as Mister Rogers

    How Mr. Rogers Influenced the Pacing of 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood'

    Fred Rogers was an icon to many. Everyone who met him and knew him says, “He really was like that.” He spoke in a soft voice and he was kind. He believed in doing good to others. He spoke to children in “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” in a soft voice, helping them to process complicated emotions [...]

  • Dowdle Brothers

    The Dowdle Brothers Tackle New 'Friday Night Lights' Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    John Erick and Drew Dowdle, aka the Dowdle brothers, have boarded Universal Pictures’ reimagining of “Friday Night Lights.” Both will do a polish on the script, with John Erick directing and Drew exec producing. Sources tell Variety that the movie is not a sequel to Universal’s 2004 film starring Billy Bob Thornton, nor is it [...]

  • Roman Polanski's Accuser Reached Out to

    Roman Polanski's New Accuser Reached Out to L.A. Prosecutors in Early 2017

    Valentine Monnier, the former actor who recently went public with her accusation that Roman Polanski raped her 44 years ago, sent an anonymous letter to L.A. prosecutors in early 2017 detailing those allegations, sources tell Variety. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has confirmed that it received such a letter in February 2017 and [...]

  • Tomas Davison

    MGM Studios Exec Tomas Davison Dies at 43

    MGM Studios executive Tomas Davison died on Nov. 16 in Miami. He was 43. The cause of his death is still pending. Davison joined the studio over a year ago where he was tapped for the position of senior VP of international television distribution Latin America and U.S. Hispanic. During his time at the studio, [...]

  • Hello Ahma

    SGIFF: Shorts Panorama Highlights Breadth of Singapore Talent

    It didn’t take long for the shorts programme that is part of the Singapore International Film Festival’s Singapore Panorama strand at the National Museum of Singapore on Nov. 27 to sell out. That is because the Singaporean audience is well aware that the best and brightest of filmmaking talent from the country cut their teeth [...]

  • Harriet Tubman Cynthia Erivo

    AMC Theatres Fires Three Employees Over Racial Profiling Incident During 'Harriet' Screening

    AMC Theatres has fired three employees in one of its Louisiana multiplexes after an incident during a screening of “Harriet.” An African American women’s group called the 504 Queens allege that 15 members were racially profiled while watching “Harriet” at AMC’s Clearview Palace 12 in Metairie on Nov. 7. A letter sent from the organization’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content