As late as September 2018, Ai Weiwei felt quite comfortable in Berlin. The fact that he wanted to move away was not due to the political climate, it had personal reasons, said the exiled Chinese artist to the Tagesspiegel. He did not really notice xenophobia - with the exception of a taxi driver who considered him a Korean - on the day Korea kicked the Germans out of the World Cup. His family found only Berlin winter hard bearable, also soon an environment with English national language for his son would be appropriate. Think about New York. And he wanted to keep the Atelier am Pfefferberg in Berlin.
In the meantime that sounds very different. "Germany is not an open society," said the 61-year-old on Thursday in the daily newspaper Die Welt and mentions three experiences with taxi drivers. What weighs heavier: He also makes fundamental allegations against the local economic policy. Germany's industry depended on China, so the human rights issue would not be addressed. "All western business people know exactly what's going on, but they say nothing."
Ai Weiwei then performs this submissive behavior on the example of the Berlinale and makes serious accusations against her. Recently, the festival has rejected several documentary films by and with him. The Rest about people in refugee camps, as well as Cheryl Hones' film about his exhibit at prisoner Alcatraz, Ai Weiwei: Your's truly , the documentary Beijing Spring about a group of artists after the Cultural Revolution in China to which he belonged, and on top of that a culture-revolution documentary also in Berlin-based director Zhou Qing. Ai Weiwei Conclusion: "The festival only accepts what has received the Golden Seal from the Chinese authorities".
The sentence insinuates that the Berlinale only shows regime-loyal film art from China. Also in the short-term retreat of Zhang Yimous One Second , also a cultural revolution, from the competition in 2019, the Berlinale has adopted the official Chinese version: "technical problems".
Ai Weiwei then emphasizes that The Rest has been to other festivals. One of the major film festivals is not there, just smaller ones like the HotDocs in Toronto. The artist also does not mention that vociferous protests against censorship and harassment of artists only make sense if a festival does not endanger its guests. For filmmakers such as the Iranian Jafar Panahi, the Berlinale launched numerous art freedom actions - because such actions were welcomed in this case. In 2012, when Ai Weiwei was harassed by Beijing authorities following a three-month detention the previous year, the Berlinale's Alison Kleymann's documentary Ai Weiwei showed : Never Sorry .
The theme of the conversation in the world is also the allegation made in the spring, Ai Weiwei's contribution to the episode film Berlin, I Love You , which has been in theaters since Thursday, had been cut out under pressure from the Berlinale. A strange reproach: The film did not run at the festival.
What does the Berlinale say about the harsh criticism? The new dual leader Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek does not want to comment on the film selection of earlier festival years, but points out that in 2017 - when the festival was still run by Dieter Kosslick - three Chinese films were shown alone that had no official approval: Liu Jians Have a Nice Day in competition, Ghost in the Mountains by Yang Heng in the Panorama and Foolish Bird by Huang Ju in the series generation. Chatrian and Rissenbeek also refer to the tightened censorship laws since March 2017, which allow prosecution of producers if they show a film without the official seal and the additional presentation permit of the Ministry of Propaganda.
"The producers decide whether they want to do that or not, it's not a Berlinale decision." The Berlinale could not prevent 2007, the producer of the also presented without a permit film Lost in Beijing with a two-year professional ban. Contrary to what Ai Weiwei suggests, the festival is not loyal to the regime, but tries to support its guests as much as possible, but also to protect them.