Political realities loom over Berlin Film Festival

STORY: Global political realities saturated the opening of the Berlin Film Festival on Thursday…

from an air raid siren going off on Ukrainian writer and jury member Oksana Zabuzhko’s phone...

"That's the end of the air raid attack upon Ukraine, which has been lasting for all this morning. Sorry!"

DEMONSTRATORS: "Democracy defend! Democracy defend!"

to this pro-democracy demonstration by industry professionals at the opening ceremony…

They gathered on the festival's initiative... as its organizers seek to leave no doubt about where they stand on far-right extremism.

Last week, a nationwide uproar emerged after a secret meeting was revealed between members of the country’s far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, during which deportations of ethnic minorities were discussed.

Five AfD members were initially invited to Thursday's opening ceremony, but organizers last week withdrew the invitations.

Here's Berlinale co-director Mariette Rissenbeek:

“It was very clear that we had to take that decision because a lot of people in our team come, are people with maybe a migrant background. And AfD is pushing so much for sending people, deporting people to their home countries or the countries where their parents come from…”

High-profile members of the festival's jury, however, questioned that decision, like German filmmaker Christian Petzold.

"If we can't stand five persons of the AfD as a part of the audience, we will lose our fight."

Italian actor and jury member Jasmine Trinca even suggested seeing films at the festival would “broaden their horizons.”

Katrin Brinker, the AfD leader in Berlin who had her invitation canceled, earlier said the decision showed the festival was bowing to pressure from cultural activists.

In a press conference earlier in the day, actor and jury president Lupita Nyong’o synthesized the competing forces shaping this year's festival:

"In the 48 hours that I've been here, that's one of the words that keeps being mentioned how political the Berlinale is. And I'm very curious to learn what that means. /// I think that what we are here to do is to see how artists are responding to the world we're living in right now. And I'm curious to see what they're making of it and how they're helping us process the world we currently exist in."