A dialogue between the festival and the West German filmmakers, who the year before were still threatening with a boycott, was starting to get off the ground. Moritz de Hadeln had given greater authority and a separate budget to Heinz Badewitz, director of the New German Films series now affiliated with the film market. In total there were almost ninety West German productions in this year’s festival, five in the Competition alone. The Golden Bear for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss made amends on two fronts: to German film and to Fassbinder himself, who twice before – with Fontane Effi Briest and Die Ehe der Maria Braun | The Marriage of Maria Braun – had been sent away empty-handed.
Polemical skirmishes over Night Crossing
But there had again been polemical skirmishes in the run-up to the Berlinale. De Hadeln’s rejection of the Disney production Night Crossing enflamed polemics between East and West Germany, just as it had in 1980 when de Hadeln turned down East German dissident Reiner Kunze’s film Die wunderbaren Jahre | The Wonderful Years on artistic grounds. Night Crossing tells the true story of a hot air balloon escape from East Germany that took place in 1979. De Hadeln used both artistic and political reservations about the film to justify his rejection, thereby infuriating the chairman of Fox, Hellmuth P. Gattinger, and the conservative press.
In a smear campaign stirred up and thoroughly exploited by Gattinger, de Hadeln was, in so many words, accused of “cowardice before the enemy”, while the film itself was glorified along with the courageous refugees. Since the local balance of power had recently shifted in favour of the CDU, the campaign met with a certain degree of sympathy in the Berlin senate. De Hadeln’s suitability was again questioned, the Minister of the Interior felt called upon to defend him, and even West German president Richard von Weizsäcker took sides publicly in the debate – very diplomatically, for de Hadeln and his artistic freedom.
De Hadeln had asserted himself. From the outside he once again appeared as the hapless festival director; but from within he had won the trust of his colleagues as well as the respect of his critics, at least the serious ones. The special screening of Night Crossing sponsored by the Axel-Springer publishing house, which took place at the same time as the Berlinale opening ceremony, came across as tasteless propaganda to many contemporary observers. The Retrospective on “Children’s films from East Germany”, which was integrated into the Kinderfilmfest, seemed more constructive, and led to a thorough examination in the specialist literature of Defa children’s productions.