EXCLUSIVE: The new heads of the Berlin Film Festival have written to recipients of the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize to express “surprise” over revelations that the festival’s founding director Bauer was seemingly an active Nazi.
In the letter, the festival distances itself from Bauer’s past and says the naming of the prize has no bearing on the meaning behind the award.
“The article makes it very clear that Alfred Bauer was more involved in Nazi politics than was known so far,” the organizer’s say about last week’s Die Zeit story, which prompted the festival to immediately suspend the prestigious accolade.
The letter continues, “We were very much surprised by this news, however we have immediately taken first steps. We are starting historic research in order to evaluate the situation.
“We would like to emphasize the award has been extended to works because of their new perspectives in cinema; the award is an acknowledgement of your work in this respect.
“Although the award had the name of Alfred Bauer there has never been a connection between him as a person and the essential meaning of the award.”
Previous recipients of the prize have included Baz Luhrmann, Joshua Marston, Agnieszka Holland, Park Chan-wook, Zhang Yimou, Andrzej Wajda and, last year, Nora Fingscheidt for hit drama System Crasher.
Bauer was the festival’s first director from 1951 to 1976. The festival introduced the prize in his honor following his death in 1986.
It was known that Bauer had worked for the Nazi government’s Reich Film Office in the 1940s but last week’s investigation uncovered evidence that his links to the Nazis went deeper and that he was supposedly an enthusiastic member of the party’s SA paramilitary wing. After the war, Bauer is said to have hidden evidence of his connections to the party.
The Berlinale was swift in taking action last week. However, the incident does at least raise the question over whether the festival should have had an award named after someone who worked in the Nazi regime.
The festival declined to comment, though it did issue a statement last week. It is not clear whether the award will continue in another form or whether previous recipients will be offered a new or revised version of the prize.
The 70th edition of the Berlinale gets underway next week under the stewardship of new co-heads Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. The festival’s competition lineup was revealed last week.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.