Berlin Festival Rejects #MeToo Black Carpet Proposal

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Fest director Dieter Kosslick says the event wants to go beyond "symbolic politics."

The Berlin International Film Festival has rejected a call to replace the traditional red carpet with a black one and put the #MeToo movement at the center of Thursday's opening-night gala.

An online petition, started by a German actress, to symbolically switch the gala carpet to black in solidarity with the #MeToo movement had garnered nearly 23,000 signatures. But Berlinale boss Dieter Kosslick said that while the festival could relate to the petition, it would not be changing the carpet.

“We made a conscious decision not to engage in symbolic politics to delve deeper into the #MeToo discourse with our festival program, deeper than our carpet allows,” he said in a statement. Kosslick pointed out that the films screening in Berlin this year — as well as several events, including a panel discussion on sexual harassment — would do a better job of addressing the real issues of sexism and abuse of power in the film industry.

This year's Berlinale kicks off Thursday with the world premiere of Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs and a star-studded gala that will include Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum, all members of the film's voice cast. 

Claudia Eisinger, a well-known German TV actress, started her #blackcarpetberlinale petition on, saying that it was “our  responsibility to show the world that sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination against women no longer remain unseen — and not only in our business.”

As a working actress, she wrote, “I know how power structures can create insecurity and how overwhelming it can be to feel dependency, how much space there is for abusive behavior in professional hierarchies. … In Hollywood the actresses wore black. In Berlin we want a black carpet.”

In a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter, Eisinger said she “greatly regrets” the festival's decision but feels her campaign achieved its goal of raising the profile of the #MeToo movement in the local industry.

“The debate has to continue until enduring change occurs. Things can't be allowed to remain as they are, with the only change being that people are now allowed to complain,” the statement reads. “The #MeToo debate can not be allowed to be swept under the carpet — whether it's red, black or purple.”