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Light and funny aren’t the adjectives that most spring to mind when discussing Germans, but the organizers of the Berlin International Film Festival kept the mood surprisingly upbeat for this year’s opening night, while still expressing solidarity with, and paying tribute to, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
The 2018 Berlinale kicked off Thursday night with the world premiere of Wes Anderson’s animated Isle of Dogs and a star-studded gala that included the film’s Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Tilda Swinton. Koyu Rankin, the young Canadian actor who voiced the lead role of Atari in Isle of Dogs, had a particularly special evening, celebrating his 11th birthday with the Berlinale gala.
“Look at this, a room full of actresses, directors, and producers: Or as you call it in America, court,” quipped German comedian Anke Engelke, hosting the gala ceremony. Engelke was refreshingly un-PC in her remarks, at one point pausing to ask the audience to think of those less fortunate: “All those men out there forced by their girlfriends to watch 50 Shades of Grey.” Engelke left it to German culture minister Monika Grutters to sound a more serious note. In her opening remarks, Gutters praised the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, noting “the time of silence has to be over” and called for real change in the film industry. While defending artistic freedom, she said, we cannot allow it to be used “by people as an excuse to misuse their power.”
Ahead of Thursday’s gala, Berlin Film Festival jury president Tom Tykwer called for the #MeToo debate to move beyond finger-pointing and individual allegations to address workplace safety and respect. The festival has tried to do its part this year, introducing a “safe space policy” that includes a hotline for visitors to report cases of discrimination or harassment they experience or see, and hosting a series of panels and discussions on gender equality and diversity.
But film, and not #MeToo, remained in focus as the 2018 Berlinale kicked off. Critics lapped up Anderson’s quirky stop-motion adventure about a boy and his faithful pet out to stop a canine genocide — The Hollywood Reporter reviewer gave it “four paws up” — and the opening-night gala kept its glitz without losing sight of the bigger picture.
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