Cinema for Peace Gala 2016

The Cinema for Peace Gala Berlin 2016, which took place in the heart of the German capital last night, gathered 1,000 filmmakers, activists and artists from around the world to put the spotlight on films addressing human suffering and injustice around the world.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done”, said Charlize Theron, Academy Award winner and honorary gala guest, quoting Nelson Mandela, at the opening of the award ceremony. “It is a very powerful quote, but most importantly, it’s time for us to act on it. Let’s make the impossible, possible, because we can.”

This year’s gala focused on the current situation of refugees and on migration and presented a special award section to films that address refugees, their lives and fates, called the “Cinema for Peace Refugees Award”, the first one of its kind of any film festival or similar event in the world. The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei served be the Honorary President of this year’s gala jury: He is strongly involved into bringing public attention to the refugee situation by being present on the Greek Island Lesbos these days. In the last couple of days, he had created a fascinating installation with life vests and a rescue boat from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Konzerthaus, which was widely discussed among the 1,000 VIP guests from Germany and abroad. Inside, the guests created their own art installation, inspired by Ai Weiwei: The audience wrapped itself into golden, shimmering, but life-saving space blankets, which are used by first aiders in emergency situations, i.e. on the Greek shores in order to keep exhausted refugees warm.

2016-02-15_MaBe_Cinema for Peace_9323The former President of Russia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev is the patron of the gala. For today’s event, he sent this message from Moscow: "More than 25 years ago, calling for reunification of their country, Germans took to the streets and chanted: We are one nation. We are one nation. Today, I would suggest a new slogan, which I believe is of vital importance: We are one humankind. We are one planet. We must live in peace. And this goal, too, can be achieved." His last visit to Berlin, by invitation of the Cinema for Peace Foundation, took place during the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall in November 2014.

The Cinema for Peace jury unites 130 members of the film industry, e.g. international award winners, festival directors, journalists as well as members of the Golden Globes and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars). The “Nelson Mandela Award for the most valuable movie of the year” was presented by Academy Award Winner Charlize Theron and Kweku Mandela.

Other laudators were the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, as well as Shirin Ebadi, a former judge and human rights activist from Iran will also join the event. Ebadi has been the first female Muslim Nobel Peace Prize Laureate when receiving this prize in 2003.

For the first time, the gala was followed by a ball. A band of Syrian refugees was playing, following an initiative by Jan Josef Liefers, and being supported by last year’s laudator Katja Riemann. In 2013, Liefers had travelled to Aleppo in Syria with Cinema for Peace, delivering milk powder and promoting the idea of a no-fly-zone and asking to stop bombing civilians.

This award was particularly important to Germans: In the context of Pegida, NSU and the irritating reaction to the Hitler actor from the film “Er ist wieder da” (“He is back”), when by-passers on the Kurfürstendamm greeted him friendly, Cinema for Peace wants to make a strong stated against the silent acceptance of Neo-Nazis which partly is the result of a polarizing discussion about refugees and unsolved integration issues. “We have foreseen this development for more than two years” Cinema for Peace Founder Jaka Bizilj explains. „We have staged a great many screenings about Syria across Germany, we have visited war areas in Syria, tried to wake up politicians and the people in order to finish this war. Nobody has acted. Or to say in the words of Ai Weiwei: If you don’t do anything, everything will get worse. We have to act now and have to finish wars.“
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