The Berlin Film Festival turns 70 this year, but plans for the anniversary celebration have been overshadowed by revelations that Alfred Bauer, Berlin’s first festival director, had deep ties to the Nazis.
An article in German newspaper Die Zeit cites new sources allegedly showing that Bauer was a member of the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler and that he was intimately involved with the Reichsfilmintendanz, the organization set up by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to coordinate the Nazis’ cinematic indoctrination efforts. Bauer, the report claims, was also a “devoted” member of the SA, the Nazi Party’s original paramilitary wing.
Bauer was the Berlin Film Festival director from the first one, in 1951, until 1976. After his death in 1986, the festival introduced a special award, the Alfred Bauer Prize, for “extraordinary artistic achievement.” Winners include Zhang Yimou, Andrzej Wajda, Alain Resnais and German director Nora Fingscheidt, who won last year for her drama System Crasher.
In response to the piece, the Berlin Film Festival has suspended the Alfred Bauer Prize and said it would be investigating the new allegations.
Citing the Die Zeit article, the festival said the information “cast new light on the role of Alfred Bauer, the first director of the Berlin International Film Festival, in the film politics of the National Socialists. The interpretation of these sources suggests that he had held significant positions during the Nazi era.” The festival said it “welcomed the research and its publication in Die Zeit and will seize the opportunity to begin a deeper research on the festival history with the support of external experts.”
Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, the new co-directors of the Berlin Film Festival, said they have not made a final decision about the future of the Alfred Bauer Prize, but Chatrian indicated if the prize was scrapped, it would likely be replaced by a similar Silver Bear honor.
The discovery came out just after Berlin unveiled its competition lineup for this year. The 2020 selection is art house heavy — only a single Hollywood production, Pixar’s animated feature Onward, will be screening, out of competition in a gala slot.