Posted on May 2, 2023

Afro-German Film Collective Publishes Open Letter Raising Concerns About “Anti-Black” Berlin Film Festival Movies

Zac Ntim, Deadline, April 26, 2023

A collective of Afro-German filmmakers and industry professionals have published an open letter raising concerns about what they have described as the selection of “anti-Black” films at the recent Berlin Film Festival.

The group, represented under the title Schwarze Filmschaffende, which loosely translates to Black Filmmakers, identifies three Berlinale titles — Measures of Men, Seneca, and Helt Super! — as projects that depict, amplify, or peddle anti-Black sentiments.

The letter is addressed to the German Minister for Culture and Media, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, Berlinale artistic directors Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, and the German Film Academy.

Opening the letter, the group note that they not only aim to “denounce the existence and handling of these offensive, racist films” but also want to challenge the “systemic errors and the structural anti-Black racism embedded in the German film ecosystem.”

“As Black Europeans, we are therefore deeply concerned and affected by the selection, endorsement, and support of these three anti-Black films, two of which are German (co-)productions, which were (co-)financed by German film funds, nominated by the German Film Academy and finally selected and shown at the latest 73rd edition of the Berlinale,” the letter reads.

Schwarze Filmschaffende dedicates lengthy portions of the letter to highlighting the exact moments in all three films that they say raise deep cause for concern. In Seneca, the John Malkovich-starrer based on the life of the Roman philosopher, the group cites the film’s use of racial slurs and “crude” violence against Black children as a cinematic practice that leads to the “desensitization of white audiences towards Black bodies and renders for Black audiences the viewing experience unbearable and traumatizing.”

Measures of Men, a historical drama about a series of genocides committed by German forces in colonial Africa, is accused of “dehumanizing” Black people while eschewing parts of German colonial history. Helt Super is challenged for including “anti-Black racist tropes of Blackface and animalization.” {snip}


Ending the open letter, the group listed 17 demands, including a public apology from senior leadership at the Berlinale and additional financial resources from government to increase anti-discrimination, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility provisions.