Welcome Address at the Berlinale Talent Campus

11.02.2006 - Speech

Mr Kosslick,
Talent Campus participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Film depends on international cooperation to a greater extent than almost any other artistic medium, and – at least this is my impression – it helps us, precisely by means of this cross-border cooperation, to better understand our own identity.

Therefore it is perhaps no coincidence that one of the most beautiful films about European esprit de vie – and European football – was the result of cooperation between European directors and the great Iranian film-maker Abbas Kiarostami. And it is a happy coincidence that this year's Berlinale, featuring six Iranian films, shows us how closely our cultures can be linked and how enriching an outsider's view of global problems like migration, unemployment and the role of men and women can be.

For this very reason I feel it was no coincidence that one of the most successful German films in recent years, “Gegen die Wand” (“Head-On”), celebrated its initial triumph here at the Berlinale.

These examples show that culture, and particularly our culture, is not a uniform whole. It thrives on diversity, on looking at what appears to be well-known in a new way, and on the courage to address topical themes. This applies especially to our own German culture.

The Berlinale is a highly suitable location as it refuses to ignore this diversity – also and particularly with regard to political problems.

This standpoint requires courage and self-confidence.

We live in a world where we feel threatened by unemployment, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. In many people this feeling leads to fear, a fear which some try to counteract by ignoring, rejecting or even repressing what seems foreign to them.

The Danish film “1:1” demonstrates this phenomenon with a topicality which is almost depressing. It confronts us with our prejudices and shows how these can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Precisely for that reason we must together resist any attempts to play one culture off against another, to claim that our culture is the only valid one, or even to propagate a “clash of cultures”.

Such a world-view of uniform cultures would lead to exactly the result it most fears – to a conflict in which all of us can only lose, and it prevents us from finding better solutions to common problems.

Ladies and gentlemen,

cultural self-confidence is the opposite of such a world-view, and the last two weeks have shown us drastically how important fora and platforms like the Berlinale, and especially the Talent Campus, are in this connection. This is because they show us that there are alternatives, and that in spite of the related insecurities and threats we can shape the globalization process in a sensible and positive way, by embarking on a dialogue based on two pillars:

First, on creative discussion of the vital issues for our future, and this creative discussion always means not insisting on one's own position as a means in itself but rather developing new options for one's own and for our joint interests.

Second, on the joint discussions and work of young talents and recognized experts from all over the world – according to the Asian educational principle of “learning, doing, teaching”.

Creativity and joint work, accompanied by dialogue, are vital prerequisites for peacefully dealing with cultural differences and above all for solving the underlying problems.

Dialogue thrives on difference, between people and between their convictions. We must respect this difference.

Dialogue is, however, based on mutual respect, otherwise it cannot take place.

Don't get me wrong – mutual respect does not mean having the same judgements and values, it means searching together for ways of solving problems.

Actions which belittle or ridicule other cultures or religions are not helpful in this quest.

We live in a world where the media create a global presence, and this entails a special responsibility, one which we must show that we are ready to bear both as politicians and as media and cultural figures.

We understand that Moslems can feel offended by cartoons, that they see these as insulting their religion. We can reject and condemn such things from a political, moral or religious standpoint. But when this rejection turns to violence and hatred, if it is taken as an excuse to threaten or even kill people, the basis for any kind of dialogue is destroyed.

The state authorities have a particular responsibility in this situation. They must do all they can to prevent the situation from escalating and to counter the obvious instrumentalization of religious sentiments. The state's task is to work towards peace and justice, not to stir up hatred and violence, especially not for religious reasons.

Freedom of religion and opinion, like artistic freedom, are not mere elements of our societal order and our democracy, they are human rights without which the development of civilization, without which dialogue is impossible.

These freedoms are often the first victims of hatred and violence – as European, and German, history has painfully taught us. It is our task to counter this dangerous development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

there are positive signs, in spite of all the alarming news of recent days, signs which encourage mutual comprehension and mutual understanding.

I at least have been encouraged by the many conversations I have had over the past few days with my Arab colleagues, as well as by the statements issued by the Arab League and various other Moslem organizations, and I was deeply moved by the TV pictures showing Moslem clerics trying to hold back the incensed mob with their bare hands.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am sure that your presence here as film-makers is a further major contribution to that dialogue, because art brings people together, beyond social, political or cultural borders, in addressing the existential issues of life. Art, and the debate about art, promote mutual understanding and enable us to gain true confidence in ourselves in the best sense of the term.

With this in mind I wish you a productive and successful week!

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