North Korea Says Berlin 'Interview' Screening Is "Instigating Terrorism"

Ed Araquel

Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick will meet with North Korea's ambassador to Germany after Pyongyang mistakes Sony's German release of the film for an official festival screening.

The Berlin International Film Festival is on high diplomatic alert after the North Korean government accused the Berlinale of "instigating terrorism" for a screening of Sony Pictures' The Interview during this year's festival. 

The problem: The Seth Rogen-James Franco film, about a farcical attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, isn't part of the Berlinale lineup. Sony Pictures Germany is releasing The Interview in Berlin, and across Germany, on Feb. 5, the same day that the 65th Berlinale begins. The release is not connected to the festival. 

The North Korean government had lashed out at the Berlinale. 

"[The submission] has nothing whatsoever to do with the freedom of expression, nor does it suit the character of the Berlin Film Festival, and is clearly an act instigating terrorism," reported Korean Central Television, the country's state-operated broadcaster, quoting a statement by a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry. The statement went on to argue that if the Berlin Film Festival screened The Interview, it would mean that Germany was siding with the U.S. in making terrorist schemes against North Korea. Said the statement: "The West's idea of freedom of expression would turn out to mean the freedom of violence and terrorism."

The spokesperson's message further argued that Germany would be "repeating its shameful history" of the Holocaust, should festival include The Interview in its lineup.

The statement urged organizers to note the recent shootings in Paris, saying that showing The Interview amid fearful sentiment in  Europe would run counter to anti-terrorist ideals.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick said he would meet with the North Korean ambassador to Germany on Thursday to clarify the matter. 

"I am going to tell him that (this screening) has nothing at all to do with the Berlin Festival. It's simply a coincidence," Kosslick said. "We are in regular contact with Sony, but at no time did they, or we, consider having the official premiere of The Interview as part of the festival."

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Before its release, North Korea described The Interview as an "act of war" and was subsequently implicated in the devastating cyberattack on the film's studio, Sony, that initially led to the movie being pulled from distribution. Rampant speculation that Pyongyang was behind the hack on Sony was confirmed by the U.S. government, which instituted sanctions against the state. Sony did a limited theatrical as well as VOD release for The Interview in the U.S., but plans a regular theatrical rollout of the film internationally, including in Germany. 

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