We have an especially great responsibility when non-professional actors are involved. This was true for the protagonists in In This World; as well as those in Feo Aladag’s Afghanistan film, Inbetween Worlds (2014); and the adolescent actors in War Witch (2012), a film about child soldiers and for which Rachel Mwanza won Best Actress. We invite them to come and care for them as their host, but we cannot solve all the problems they will have when they return home, to war, to conflict zones, to poverty. We can only help to the best of our abilities and draw attention to their reprehensible situations.
In the long term, the way to solve the refugee issue is through diplomacy. Only it can put an end to the insanity that forces people to leave their homelands. In addition we have to fight hunger, and the gap between the rich and the poor, which is also widening in our own country. For it also triggers irregular processes, be it in East Germany or Bangladesh. Films are merely able to enhance sensitivity for such processes. By the way: I don’t understand the rich. Their senseless profit mongering contributes to these problems: for instance, to the hunger and terror in Nigeria or the massive environmental destruction caused by mining oil sands in the Arctic. The tax payer is then asked to foot the bill; the military and police, to restore order. Billions in food aid become necessary and as a result corporations make even greater profits.
In 2016, the Berlinale will, of course, again devote itself to the refugee issue. It is, so to speak, in the Berlinale’s DNA to offer filmmakers and artists a platform for exploring societal problems. At the moment we are examining our options and establishing contact with refugee organisations. In addition we are considering meaningful integrative measures. Free admission tickets for refugees simply isn’t enough. What kind of discussion forums are possible and how can we create a context that refugees will be able to identity with? One example I just heard about: Not only did refugee children save a school from closure in the Brandenburg village of Golzow, which is known to Berlinale audiences from the longest running documentary project ever, Barbara and Winfried Junge’s The Children from Golzow. But the arriving refugees were shown old Super 8 films made in Syria and Iraq by GDR documentary filmmakers. The refugees saw their homelands before they had been destroyed – certainly an extremely emotional experience for everyone.
In early September, on the sidelines of the Venice Film Festival, I ran into writer Donna Leon, just after Chancellor Merkel, in reference to the large number of refugees, made her now famous statement: “We can do it!” Donna Leon said to me that Germany was experiencing one of the best moments in its history. It was taking in great numbers of refugees and had such a positive attitude, as could be seen in the words of the country’s most important representative. Indeed, despite all the loudmouths and pyromaniacs, all the serious concerns and problems, we are experiencing a historic point in time. I was born in 1948, and as far back as I can think, we have, thank goodness, been working on coming to terms with the Third Reich. Notwithstanding our political, academic and media-related efforts, most of us have had the good fortune to not have experienced persecution, flight and war personally. At present we are, however, confronted with a similarly large migration of peoples. And for the first time we are beginning to realize, quite concretely, what it means when millions have to flee, lose all they have, and don’t know if and when they will be able to return to their country. The present situation gives us the historic chance to understand our own history – and to learn from it that we should do everything we can to treat people with dignity and give them a new home.