The film, which follows a 20-year-old who joins Antifa to oppose a rising neo-Nazi movement but clashes with her friends over whether violence could ever be a legitimate political answer to fascism, has become a high-profile battle ground in a culture war that has been bubbling in the country for the last few years as the AFD has gained influence.
The party is now the third-largest in the Bundestag after winning 12.6% of the national vote in the 2017 election, and has significant power at a regional level in Germany. That rise to prominence has, however, seen it continually face accusations of racism and xenophobia.
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AFD’s desire to influence the country’s arts has been of concern for local filmmakers for some time. Deadline’s sources in Germany have regularly expressed fear about what the party’s growing popularity could mean for the visual arts, which have famously been well-backed by public funding, and those fears have now reached a higher pitch after the AFD’s public attack on And Tomorrow The Entire World.
At the end of last month, four AFD MPs launched a “kleine Anfrage an den Bundestag”, effectively a request for a parliamentary inquiry, into the movie’s backing from national body German Films for its Oscar campaign, as well as its receiving of public money for production.
AFD representatives Marc Jongen, Martin Erwin Renner, Götz Frömming, and Thomas Ehrhorn filed a series of questions addressing the legitimacy of the film, which they say presents a partisan view of German politics.
“In the opinion of the questioners [the film] paints a rather tendentious picture of left-wing extremist Antifa,” the document, seen by Deadline, reads. “It is not understandable that this film was funded with national funding from the German Film Fund (DFFF) (496,000 euros in funding whose shareholders include the Federal Agency FFA) [and] was selected as Germany’s contribution to the Oscars in spring 2021.”
The questions specifically take umbrage with the fact that the logo of the film’s fictional neo-Nazi political party, ‘List 14’, supposedly resembles the logo of AFD.
Speaking to Deadline, And Tomorrow The Entire World director Julia von Heinz and producer Fabian Gasmia say they found the document “truly shocking”.
“This reaction is absolutely terrible in my eyes,” says Gasmia. “This is just their first step, they have identified free arts as one of their main enemies.”
Germany’s public funding model, which encompasses a variety of sources including national broadcasters and regional funding bodies, has its independence enshrined in law. It has also seen plenty of success – to date, every German film to have been nominated at the Oscars has been co-produced by German public TV.
“There’s zero government influence on funding decisions. It’s in our constitution that the arts are free,” explains another local producer. “They put a lot of money into our system but they always give it out independently.”
The selection process for the Oscars is also protected, with an independent industry panel choosing the movie before the awards campaign is funded by the government-backed German Films.
Despite an AFD MP telling parliament last year that “German films are not at the top of the AFD’s agenda [because] you can’t win voters with the topic”, sources claim that the party is having an insidious influence on the public backing of arts at a regional level, where it has the most power. The German public TV system, which injects around 30% of the country’s independent film finance, has been one target.
A tax paid by every German household, similar to the UK’s BBC licence fee, is raised each year in accordance with inflation, but the AFD has been battling this and even managed to contribute to blocking the increase this year in one region, Sachsen Anhalt, the first time that has happened in 50 years.
“That effectively will mean lower budgets for production,” said one producer. They add that reactions to this from local producers have varied – some are determined to fight the AFD’s growing influence while others are “very afraid” and have begun to self-censor to avoid the possibility of having funding pulled.
Last year, Germany’s regional HessenFilm fund fired its CEO over a private meeting with AFD co-leader Jörg Meuthen, which he posted on Instagram, after pressure from local filmmakers and a petition demanding his resignation that attracted 550 industry signatures.
While the AFD insists in its manifesto that it wants to “preserve and nurture the varied cultural landscape” and that it “wants to push back the influence of political parties on culture life”, the same document also pointedly expresses that the party wants to move away from “the current narrowing of the German culture of remembrance to the time of National Socialism”.
“They believe that for too long German films have focused on the negative side of German history,” comments von Heinz, “But people expect Germany to be critical of our past, of course, and our Oscar-winning films have been.”
Deadline understands the issue reached boiling point during a recent meeting of the regional funder Bavarian Rundfunk, at which AFD has a seat on the board. The subject of And Tomorrow The Entire World was raised and a heated exchange saw commissioning editors threatened with not having their contracts renewed for financially supporting von Heinz’s movie. The AFD now has seats on the boards of several public funders including Hessian Central German, NDR, Saarland and WDR.
“They think the government should say what art can be and what it cannot be,” comments Gasmia. “That is shocking. The freedom of arts, press, schools, teaching, research, are pillars of our democracy.”
For now, German producers believe that the AFD’s influence on the arts can be moderated, but there are fears over how the pandemic and its long-term economic impact will further shape the country’s political landscape.
“This is actually a very prosperous time in Germany, unemployment is low, but there are a lot of changes on the horizon,” says Gasmia. “There is a lot of gloom that might come over Germany and that will mean their party will gain in strength. We as an industry are on high alert.”
Deadline has contacted AFD for comment.
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