Address by Federal Minister Steinmeier on the occasion of the signing of the German–Indian film agreement

16.02.2007 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Minister Dasmunsi,
Ambassador Shankar,
Minister of State Neumann,
Dieter Kosslick,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In an interview with the Deutsche Welle as a member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival just one year ago, the director Yash Chopra – whose film “Veer-Zaara” is celebrated as one of the most moving and uplifting contributions to relations between India and Pakistan and between different religions in general – called for greater exchange, explaining that “we can learn so much from each other”.

While politics may not always move as quickly as we would like, in this case it has done so. With today's agreement on German-Indian co-production, we have fulfilled an important prerequisite for greater exchange in both the cultural and economic fields. I welcome this development most warmly, and would like to thank once again all those who worked so hard during the negotiation stage of the agreement.

This agreement marks the continuation of a process which we began not least with India Year in 2006. And I am not talking about Yash Chopra's appointment to the jury of the Film Festival. Rather I mean the various foreign and domestic activities which have taken place at all levels. India was, for example, a guest of honour at the Hanover Messe, and I myself was privileged to open the cultural highlight of India Year, the Frankfurt Book Fair.

It is this same important and successful process of combining cultural, economic and political aspects which we are continuing at the Berlin International Film Festival here today.

Indeed, today's event highlights once again that the “Berlinale” is, in the most positive meaning of the word, a political film festival.

And this applies not only to the composition of the jury or to the selection of films. For example, this year's Talent Campus, the breeding ground for young film-makers co-funded by the Federal Foreign Office for many years now, ran under the title “Home Affairs – Privacy, Film and Politics”. Participants explored possibilities for defining cultural identity in and through the medium of film.

It was Amartya Sen who formulated the important insight that identity, and cultural identity in particular, cannot rest exclusively on what is our “own”, but requires an openness to, and mutual enrichment with that which is “foreign”.

If culture is to continue to provide critical orientation for society in a globalized world, what we need is not isolation or a backward-looking attitude, but exchange and choice.

Europeans looking at India today can take heart: the world's largest democracy not only possesses more official languages than the EU, but has a Sikh Head of Government and a Muslim President; the chairwoman of the largest Indian party was raised as a Christian. The concept of a homogenous or monolithic culture does not go far in India. In the year of Germany's Presidency, therefore, we in Europe too might be confident that we can create a unifying bond of interests, values and policy options.

Germany and India are in many respects linked through common visions and values. But our strategic partnership is not limited to the economic or political field alone. Language, culture and education also play a major role. For just as culturally-fuelled conflicts are highly dangerous, culturally-rooted friendships are lasting and reliable.

Since the era of Willy Brandt, therefore, foreign cultural and education policy has been a central component of German foreign policy.

No policy area speaks to people as directly and creates such long-lasting emotional ties as that of culture – and in none of the seven arts is this effect more immediate than in film. And it almost seems to me that today's agreement continues a relationship between Germany and India which began back in the early days of cinema.

For as early as in the 1920s, Franz Osten, one of the pioneers of the German silent film, was shooting the first German-Indian co-productions in Mumbai. And “The Light of Asia” and “Shiraz” are today considered classics of the period.

This gives us all the more reason to strive to improve possibilities for exchange and joint creative projects.

Some impressive recent films have highlighted our joint potential in this respect. For example, Florian Gallenberger's “Shadows of Time”, produced by Helmut Dietl, was filmed entirely in Calcutta, featuring exclusively Bengali actors. The film has caused excitement – not only in Germany, but, as I am told, in India too.

Examples of this kind give us reason to hope for even more intensive cooperation in future. The co-production agreement creates an appropriate legal framework for this. And like all of you, I look forward to seeing the results of this initiative in cinemas soon – maybe even at the Berlinale next year.

Thank you.

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