In 2016, the Berlin Film Festival responded to the growing refugee crisis by launching cultural projects to help support asylum seekers. George Clooney and wife Amal also made headlines when they met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during last year’s event to discuss the refugee situation. Today, organizers say they are again working to deepen refugee integration with film-related activities throughout the fest. This comes a few days after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a suspension of America’s refugee program.
In 2016, Germany admitted 1.1M refugees. It’s thought that another 300K entered in 2016. There are tens of thousands in Berlin and the traditionally quite political festival — last year’s Golden Bear winner was Fire At Sea, the refugee documentary about Lampedusa which is also nominated for an Oscar — is giving back.
Among the initiatives is a collaboration with KulturLeben Berlin in order to promote the participation of the socially disadvantaged in the cultural life of the city. Tickets for films screening as part of the festival will be available to people with low incomes at a 50% discount. In an effort to show its appreciation for their engagement and to promote cultural exchange, the Berlinale has asked volunteers from the city’s non-profit refugee aid organizations to register as mentors and accompany refugees to the screenings.
Further, 20 guest trainees who came to Germany as refugees will be given the chance to take a look at various fields behind the scenes of the festival while the school program has been extended to include introductory German-language classes for refugees. There will be 10 such classes held during the festival.
Organizers said today, “The Festival has always made a point of fostering understanding, tolerance, and acceptance, as well as responding to current events in society.” They are also asking for donations from festival guests to the children and youth department of Zentrum Überleben which provides psychological, social, and integrative support to children and adolescents who have been traumatized by torture, flight, and/or persecution. Donation boxes will be set up around the festival.