Berlin Film Festival’s opening night marks glamour and politics

Published : 16 Feb 2024 09:28 PM

Politics permeated even the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival's opening ceremony on Thursday night, as protesters and celebrities flocked to the German capital in almost equal numbers.

The cast of the Irish historical drama "Small Things Like These," including the Oscar-nominated Cillian Murphy as well as Matt Damon in a producer role, were on the carpet, as were German stars Lars Eidinger in the competition film "Sterben" and Heike Makatsch, known for "Love Actually," among others.

The carpet was briefly taken over by dozens of industry professionals, chanting "defend democracy," who gathered on the festival's initiative as its organizers seek to leave no doubt that they are steadfastly against right-wing extremism after controversy over the invitation—and later disinvitation—of members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Model Papis Loveday combined politics and glamour by holding up a sign reading "No racism! No AfD" while wearing a white cape that said "More empathy" on the back, while actor Pheline Roggan displayed a necklace with the diamond-studded letters "FCK AFD." According to German magazine Spiegel, some people on the edge of the carpet were seen holding posters in support of the AfD that read: "Berlinale—discrimination is the norm."

Separately, dozens gathered near the Berlinale Palast, where the ceremony was taking place, as part of a strike called for higher wages at the CinemaxX and CineStar theatre chains.

Festival co-director Mariette Rissenbeek used her opening ceremony speech to highlight the wars and conflicts in Ukraine, Iran, the Middle East, and Sudan, as well as warn of the threat that right-wing extremists pose to Germany's democracy.