Film Industry Protests Far-Right Surge in Hollywood's Favorite German Backlot

Daniel Bruhl - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Daniel Bruhl - Getty - H 2016

German stars including Daniel Bruhl, have called on voters to prevent the election of a far-right mayor in the eastern German town of Gorlitz, where 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' 'The Reader' and 'Inglorious Basterds' were shot.

An election in a picturesque eastern German town has become the focus of the country's film and entertainment industry, with stars including Daniel Bruhl and Game of Thrones actor Tom Wlaschiha calling on voters in the city of Gorlitz to oppose a far-right candidate for mayor.

Gorlitz, whose historic cobblestone streets and grand Baroque buildings came through World War II intact, has become a favorite backdrop for Hollywood productions shooting in Germany. Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, Stephen Daldry's The Reader and Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life all shot in Gorlitz. The town has been nicknamed Gorliwood.

But on Sunday, Gorlitz may have a new claim to notoriety if its voters become the first in Germany to elect a mayor for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. 

AfD candidate Sebastian Wippel picked up 36.4 percent of the vote in the first round of the mayoral election on May 26. The runoff, scheduled for June 16, will see him take on Octavian Ursu from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). Ursu drew 30 percent of the vote in the first round but, for the runoff, is expected to gain the support of opposition parties that oppose the AfD.

Leading filmmakers and authors have led a call for Gorlitz voters to shun the far-right party — known for its anti-immigration, anti-Muslim policies — or risk isolation by the arts community and tourists. In addition to actors such as Bruhl and Wlaschiha, The Reader director Stephen Daldry, producer Michael Simon de Normier and German pop star Marius Muller-Westernhagen have signed an open letter calling on Gorlitz to not give in “to hate and hostility, conflict and exclusion.”

The Gorlitz election is being watched as a possible bellwether for statewide elections in the region, which will be held this fall. Support for the AfD in the state of Saxony, where the town is located, is nearly double that of Germany as a whole. The far-right party took nearly 13 percent of the vote nationwide in Germany's 2017 general elections, but it polls closer to 25–26 percent in Saxony.