If you want to be really stupid, and you want the rest of the world know, there are three spots where to do it with the greatest splash.
In Hollywood, the place where any semi-literate person can become a moving pictures star or, at least, a starlet. Many of them are of the opinion that to achieve immortality, they better learn a few lines of politically naïve but similarly attractive nonsense and, most of all, learn how to spout it. They won’t achieve immortality, but they will earn enough to keep themselves in fenced-off villas, flying around aboard private jets, sailing around in private yachts, all the while telling the masses of the unwashed to behave or the planet will go to hell.
In Brussels, the European Union capital, overwhelmed by untold thousands of all kinds of bureaucrats from all over the place who waste time and public money by creating more and more useless work projects for themselves, all in the name of creating a better society, whatever that is supposed to mean. Most Europeans watch them askance, but the bureaucrats can hardly care less: they look extremely busy and their working futures are endless. Better societies are quite different animals based on whom you are talking to. Even creating a definition for them is a massive undertaking that will ensure today’s bureaucrats, and their children, and their grandchildren, will have enough to retire on.
And then there is Berlin, the capital of Germany. According to a widely accepted cliché, the Germans (as a nation) are incredibly thorough in everything they undertake, and most others just watch them in amazement. Granted, this is a huge bit of generalization, and generalizations tend to be dangerous. Not all Germans are thorough, not all French are the greatest lovers in the world, not all Italians can sing bel canto, and not all Canadians believe that Justin Trudeau is the best thing that could hit them right after sliced bread.
But now, many in the film industry worldwide are fit to be tied: the Berlin egg-head crowd has managed to chew gum while walking at the same time. The Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale to those in the know) will no longer separate acting awards by the usual “actor” and “actress” designation.
The idea behind the charade: why not become more “gender-sensitive?”
It is good to remember that, during the years that followed Germany’s ignominious defeat in the First World War, Berlin became the centre of the living-it-up culture. The ancient Greek Olympiad post-victory orgies and the voluptuousness of sexual gatherings in the various spas of ancient Rome were purely innocent kindergarten entertainment in comparison.
It looks as if the Berlinale crowd was ashamed of their predecessors’ illustrious past.
So, with Germans’ values on human relationships so badly mixed up throughout modern history (at least), is it any wonder that organizers of the Berlinale make such pronouncements as the one that follows, and that they mean them?
“We believe that not separating the awards in the acting field according to gender comprises a signal for a more gender-sensitive awareness in the film industry.”
Thus festival directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, and no, there was not one twinkle in their eyes to indicate that they were just kidding.
Considering modern German artistic tradition has been steeped in the multi-gender attractiveness, this is a significant departure.
So, there will no longer be a best actor or a best actress. Not in Berlin, anyway. The Festival will save on the cost of silver, presenting their Silver Bear awards only for “best leading performance” and “best supporting performance.”
Besides, organizers must know something others don’t: the very next Berlinale, due to take place in February 2021, will include personal appearances. Unlike the many government and health authorities who are planning for the current so-called pandemic to continue into eternity, the Berliners have adopted the popular historical motto of Après nous, le déluge (meaning who cares about whatever happens when we’re gone, a French expression, attributed to Madame de Pompadour, the famous lover of King Louis XV of France).
It’s either that, or they are aware that the so-called pandemic is not what the fear-mongers have pronounced it to be.
Their explanation included a nod in the direction of Covid (or whatever other viruses would appear by then), concluding that “lively relationship with the audience” is an “important and unique feature” of such events as film festivals. “In times of the corona pandemic, it has become even clearer that we still require analogue experience spaces in the cultural realm.”
Not that the Berlinale is much of a trailblazer. MTV Movie and TV Awards have got rid of gender categories three years ago. But, on the other hand, such venerable events like the Cannes (France) and Venice (Italy) International Film Festivals have yet to move on this sensitive front.
It’s tough to fathom that the American Academy Awards (a.k.a. Oscars) must have had other concerns, ignoring the potential for genderless awards all along.
Of course, there are people who pooh-pooh the Berlin initiative. Many of them experts in the field of cinematography.
They know their history: more often than not, they say, when men and women can be nominated (and possibly win) in categories where they compete directly against one another, female nominations (and never mind victories) have been scarce.
A typical statistic: the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has, during its almost a century-long history, nominated only five women for the Best Director award.
Guilty without proof
The Berliners didn’t stop with going sexless.
Those whose films were deemed to have opened “new perspectives on cinematic art” (whatever that is supposed to mean), used to receive the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize.
No longer: 75 years after the end of the Second World War, Berlinale organizers read in a newspaper story that Alfred Bauer used to be a member of the NSDAP (Nazi party), and that he was allegedly actively involved in its propaganda efforts.
The Berlinale leaders acted upon the article, published earlier this year by Die Zeit newspaper, forthwith.
A newspaper story was good enough to dismiss the heritage left by Bauer, the man who had run the Berlinale for a quarter of a century since its inception in 1951.
Bauer died in 1986. It was he who had turned the gala into a “showcase for the free world,” bringing in film stars such as Sophia Loren and Burt Lancaster. He helped establish West Berlin as an internationally important centre for the arts.
The story in Die Zeit alleged that Bauer held a previously unknown “high-ranking position in the Nazi film bureaucracy.”
The festival has commissioned the Institute for Contemporary History (Institut für Zeitgeschichte) in Munich to research the allegations against Bauer. Its report should become public this summer.
The Munich-based research establishment was born in 1947 as German Institute of the History of the National Socialist Era (Deutsches Institut für Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Zeit).
As Berlinale executive director Mariette Rissenbeek put it so succinctly, “We are convinced that an external and independent group of historians should investigate Alfred Bauer’s position in the Nazi regime. Moreover, we also agree on this with the Deutsche Kinemathek (German film archives), which supports this approach. Accordingly, we are pleased that the IfZ can now initiate the necessary research work.”
Meaning: Bauer is guilty before any scientific proof could be found, never mind substantiated and submitted.
The award will now be called the Silver Bear Jury Prize, and Berlinale leaders feel extremely good about themselves already.
Their political correctness has prevailed with what (without fear of generalization) makes German thoroughness so frightfully idiotic and dangerous.
Dreimal Hoch! to Berlinale!