Why #MeToo will be a recurring theme throughout the Berlinale | Film | DW | 15.02.2018
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Why #MeToo will be a recurring theme throughout the Berlinale

From initiatives such as "Nobody's Doll" and #BlackCarpetBerlinale to Kim Ki-duk's controversial invitation, here's how the debate on #MeToo has been fueled even before the Berlin film festival kicked off.

The Berlinale has long established its reputation as the most political of all international film festivals.

Last year, actors and filmmakers were quick to opine about the newly inaugurated US president, Donald Trump. In 2016, the refugee crisis dominated debate, while a documentary on the migrants' dangerous crossing the Mediterranean, "First at Sea," won the Golden Bear.

This year, inevitably, #MeToo is the term that's bound to be on everyone's lips throughout the festival. While previous political issues tackled by the Berlin International Film Festival didn't necessarily affect all filmmakers directly, this time the current social earthquake emerged from the film industry itself — and will not simply be solved by a number of all-black dress award nights.

The Berlinale has already announced that it was committed "to the struggle for sexual self-determination and against any and all forms of abuse."

Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen)

Festival director Dieter Kosslick believes #MeToo will lead to "an avalanche of changes"

More concretely, the festival is organizing a panel discussion called "Culture Wants Change – A Conversation on Sexual Harassment in Film, Television and Theater," to be held next Monday. A new website, Speak Up!, aiming to encourage people affected by sexual harassment in the film industry, will also be launched during the festival.

According to Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick, certain productions whose directors were accused of sexual assault were even disqualified from the festival's line-up. However, that same claim opened the door to a controversy that emerged a few days before the start of the festival. 

Read more: Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick: 'An avalanche of changes' will follow #MeToo

The controversial South Korean director

On Monday, a South Korean actress denounced  the festival organizers' "hypocrisy" for having invited director Kim Ki-duk to premiere his latest work, "Human, Space, Time and Human," even though the renowned filmmaker recently faced abuse allegations.

The unnamed actress claimed that the South Korean director beat her and forced her into unscripted sex scenes while shooting the 2013 film "Moebius." While Kim was fined for slapping, he denied all other allegations of wrongdoing and the court dropped sexual abuse charges citing a lack of evidence.

Kim Ki-Duk (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Kim Ki-duk is famous for his disturbing and controversial arthouse films. He won the Golden Lion in Venice in 2012

Paz Lazaro, head of the Berlinale's Panorama section where Kim's film will be shown, reacted to the controversy by stating that the director was deliberately invited to "contribute to the difficult but important issue," and that Kim "has promised to face the debate that may go beyond his film," she told German press agency dpa.

"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," Lazaro also told The Korea Herald newspaper.

An open debate

While multiple allegations of sexual harassment turned Harvey Weinstein into the unambiguous emblem of a systemic problem in the film industry, for some people it remains unclear where the line should be drawn on abuses of power.

While Catherine Deneuve's infamous attack on #MeToo sparked fury, similar views are also gaining popularity. An open discussion, and setting up concrete structures to protect people against abuse, therefore appear absolutely necessary.

Political dimensions

Germany's first and most prominent #MeToo case following the Weinstein scandal, surrounding TV and theater director Dieter Wedel, took on a political dimension when it was revealed that a public broadcaster knew about accusations of sexual misconduct but covered them up in the 1980s.

"Fear and silence were accomplices [of abuses of power] for too long. It is good that we are now putting an end to this and that more and more women and men are acting against this," said Culture Minister, Monika Grütters, on Wednesday. "We need a cultural change in which everyone participates."

Grütters also announced that new counselling points would be created to help victims of abuse.

Revisiting red carpet dress codes

Like at the Golden Globes, black dresses are expected on the Berlinale red carpet in symbolic support of the #MeToo movement. Some even suggest the traditional red carpet itself should be blackened.

The idea has been circulating over the week through a petition launched by German actress Claudia Eisinger. Her #BlackCarpetBerlinale petition on change.org has been signed by over 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, German actress Anna Brüggemann has launched the "Nobody's Doll" campaign that questions why women traditionally wear revealing, low-cut dresses and high heels on the red carpet.  Her open letter has been signed by many of her colleagues in the film industry, while the debate is being fueled on social media via the #nobodysdoll hashtag.  

Golden Globes 2018 Martin McDonagh, Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, (Getty Images/AFP/F. J. Brown)

With her no-fuss gala style, Frances McDormand (center) is a role model for Anna Brüggemann's #nobodysdoll initiative

"These images of women have a strong impact, on children, on everyone," actress Alina Levshin, who also supports the initiative, told DW. "Women are depicted as being attractive and successful only if they look that way. And that is not the message we want to send."

Festival director Dieter Kosslick supports the idea. "I can only encourage every woman to come as she wants. By the way, there's never been a dress code at the Berlinale," he said at a press conference. "I welcome any woman wearing flat shoes — as well as men wearing high heels."

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