The Berlin International Film Festival is no stranger to controversy and, as it celebrates its 60th anniversary, another scandal may be brewing.
The Romanian film "Portrait of the Young Man as a Fighter," which deals with anti-communist partisans in post-World War II Romania, has been accused of glossing over the anti-Semitism of its main character.
The Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania has protested at the inclusion of the film in the Berlinale's Forum section this year. The film by 36-year-old Romanian director Constantin Popescu tells the story of a group of anti-communist fighters, led by Ion Gavrila Ogoranu, who hid out in the Carpathian Mountains until well into the 1950s.
Rejected Calls to Pull the Film
The Bucharest-based institute sent a protest letter to the Berlinale on Monday, demanding that the film be withdrawn from the festival program because Ogoranu was a member of the "fascist, anti-Semitic and racist Miscarea Legionara." The Miscarea Legionara, or Legionary Movement, was a fascist organization set up in Romania in 1927, which was committed to the "Christian and racial" renewal of the country.
In its catalogue entry about the film, the Berlinale describes those who went into the mountains to escape the approaching Red Army in 1944 as "a diverse assortment of nationalists, fascists, liberals, apolitical farmers and members of the middle-class who were affected by the Communists' expropriations."
The head of the Forum section Christoph Terhechte has rejected calls to have the film pulled from the program, saying that the festival did not believe in "censorship, but in debate and education."
In an official statement released on Tuesday, Terhechte wrote: "We are fully aware that Ogoranu has publicly made extremist, racist, and antidemocratic statements. We do not support his views, and neither does the film."