The Berlinale has filed criminal charges against unknown persons who over the weekend hacked the film festival’s social media channel and posted a Gaza Ceasefire message with the festival’s logo and branding.

The festival criticized the posts as “anti-Semitic” in regards to the ongoing Israeli and Palestinian conflict in Gaza. The festival quickly deleted the posts, which appeared on Sunday, January 25, and have launched an investigation into the hacking.

“On Sunday, February 25, the Instagram channel of the Berlinale Panorama section was briefly hacked and anti-Semitic image-text posts about the Middle East war with the Berlinale logo were posted on the channel,” the festival statement reads. “These statements do not originate from the festival and do not represent the festival’s stance. The posts were deleted immediately and an investigation was launched into how this incident could have occurred. The Berlinale condemns this criminal act in the strongest possible terms and has deleted the posts and launched an investigation. In addition, the Berlinale has filed criminal charges against unknown persons. The LKA (the state criminal office) has begun an investigation.”

Zendaya; Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino; Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, Jamie Lee Curtis

"On the Adamant"

The infographics uploaded by the hackers included statements like “Genocide is Genocide. We are all complicit,” and that followers need to “shed the idea that German guilt absolves us of our country’s history or our current crimes.” They also called for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire” in Gaza.

One post read: “From our unresolved Nazi past to our genocidal present — we have always been on the wrong side of history. But it’s not too late to change our future.”

The hacking took place on the same day that Yuval Abraham, co-director of the award-winning film “No Other Land,” said he was receiving death threats for criticizing the Israeli state in his acceptance speech during the Berlinale closing ceremony. The hacking was unrelated to Abraham’s acceptance speech.

“We are standing in front of you. Now, we are the same age. I am Israeli, Basel is Palestinian. And in two days, we go back to a land where we are not equal,” Abraham said onstage at Berlinale while accepting the Best Documentary Award alongside Adra. “I am under civilian law; Basel is under military law. We live 30 minutes from one another but I have voting rights. Basel does not have voting rights. I am free to move where I want in this land. Basel, like millions of Palestinians, is locked in the occupied West Bank. This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality, has to end.”

He later tweeted the Berlinale clip, writing, “Our film ‘No Other Land’ on occupied Masafer Yatta’s brutal expulsion won best documentary in Berlinale. Israel’s channel 11 aired this 30 second segment from my speech, insanely called it ‘anti semitic’ — and I’ve been receiving death threats since. I stand behind every word.”

The festival in its statement Monday said German media and various politicians criticized statements made by “award winners on the Middle East war” — a reference to Abraham and others who spoke out.

“The sometimes one-sided and activist statements made by award winners were an expression of individual personal opinions. They in no way reflect the festival’s position,” the festival said.

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 19: Berlinale Director Mariette Rissenbeek speaks on stage at the European Shooting Stars 2024 award ceremony during the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Berlinale Palast on February 19, 2024 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 19: Berlinale Director Mariette Rissenbeek speaks on stage at the European Shooting Stars 2024 award ceremony during the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Berlinale Palast on February 19, 2024 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images)Getty Images

At the festival’s opening ceremony on February 15, Berlinale Executive Director Mariëtte Rissenbeek condemned the October 7 Hamas attacks, called for the release of the hostages, and remembered the suffering of all victims of the violence in Israel and Gaza.

“We understand the outrage that the statements made by some of the award winners were perceived as too one-sided and, in some cases, inappropriate. In the run-up to and during our festival, we made it very clear what the Berlinale’s view of the war in the Middle East is and that we do not share one-sided positions,” Rissenbeek said in her opening ceremony remarks and shared by the festival again on Monday.

She continued: “However, the Berlinale sees itself – today, as in the past – as a platform for open dialogue across cultures and countries. We must therefore also tolerate opinions and statements that contradict our own opinions, as long as these statements do not discriminate against people or groups of people in a racist or similarly discriminating way or cross legal limits. From our point of view, it would have been appropriate in terms of content if the award winners and guests at the Award Ceremony had also made more differentiated statements on this issue. The Berlinale stands for democracy and openness. We explicitly oppose discrimination and all forms of hatred. We want to exchange ideas with other social and political institutions on how to conduct a social discourse on this extremely controversial topic in Germany – with the inclusion of international perspectives – without individual statements being perceived as anti-Semitic or anti-Palestinian. We have to face up to this controversial topic – as an international film festival and as a society as a whole.”

Sunday’s Film Independent Spirit Awards in Los Angeles were disrupted by a protestor who used a loud speaker to blare the messages “Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire Now” on a continuous loop.

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