German Film Festival Hacked With Pro-Palestine Posts

Unidentified hackers reportedly accessed the Berlin International Film Festival’s (Berlinale) Instagram account and posted infographics calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Though the organization immediately deleted the posts and published a notice disavowing the statement, screenshots had already gone viral on social media, adding fuel to the festival’s controversy as several German officials have publicly denounced several category winners for calling for a ceasefire in their closing ceremony speeches.

The controversy came amid an international call to boycott the German arts sector for the nation’s continued suppression of pro-Palestinian creatives as well as its unconditional support for Israel. A number of Berlinale’s own workers issued a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza earlier this month, followed by over 100 participating filmmakers across various categories signing off on a list of demands for the festival to acknowledge the artists who withdrew their entries and to “confront censorship and the silencing of critical perspectives in the cultural sector in Germany,” among other points.

Dated February 25, the now-deleted post was presented as though authored by the festival organizers. “We acknowledge that our silence makes us complicit in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza and ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” the text read, calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire while urging other German institutions to do the same.

berlinale statement
Berlinale’s statement regarding the now-deleted posts (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via Instagram)

Berlinale quickly deleted the infographic and issued a notice stating it did not represent the festival’s views, that an investigation was underway, and that criminal charges would be filed.

During the festival’s closing ceremony on Saturday, February 24, Jewish-American filmmaker Eliza Hittman, American filmmaker Ben Russell (clad in a keffiyeh), and Berlin-based French filmmaker Guillaume Cailleau took the stage with statements in solidarity with Palestine.

Israeli journalist and documentary filmmaker Yuval Abraham also shared the stage with his project partner, Palestinian journalist Basel Adra, for their film No Other Land (2024), which won this year’s Berlinale Documentary Award. In a viral speech, Abraham stated that “this situation of apartheid between us, this inequality has to end,” and that “we need to call for a ceasefire.”

Abraham since shared in a post on X that he has been subjected to death threats after his speech was streamed on an Israeli news channel that called it “antisemitic.”

During his portion of the speech, Adra spoke directly about how it was difficult to celebrate the award while “tens of thousands of [his] people are being slaughtered and massacred by Israel in Gaza,” and that his community that the film was about, Masafer Yatta, was also being “erased by Israeli bulldozers.”

“I ask one thing for Germany as I am in Berlin here: to respect the UN calls and to stop sending weapons to Israel,” Adra concluded, to enormous applause.

After the closing ceremony, Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner posted a thread on X expressing that “antisemitism has no place” in the capital city and that what had happened at Berlinale was “an intolerable relativization” before calling upon the festival’s organizers to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again. “Full responsibility for the deep suffering in Israel and the Gaza Strip lies with Hamas,” Wagner said.

Berlin’s Culture Senator Joe Chialo followed with a post that said the ceremony was marked with “self-righteous anti-Israel propaganda that does not belong on Berlin’s stages.” German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Claudia Roth also criticized the filmmakers for failing to mention Hamas’s October 7 attack and the remaining Israeli hostages. Roth noted that she and Wegner would “work through the events at Berlinale” together.

In the last five months, several state-funded entities, including museums, art festivals, and universities, have been criticized for allegedly silencing pro-Palestinian culture workers and scholars. Typically abiding by the German Parliament’s 2019 opposition of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as “antisemitic,” institutions have canceled various events led by people who have been vocal in their support of Palestine.

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