Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the presentation of the Honorary Golden Bear to Michael Ballhaus at the Berlin International Film Festival

18.02.2016 - Speech

Dear Dieter Kosslick,
Dear Michael Ballhaus,
Dear Tom Tykwer,
Dear Monika Grütters,

Why is the Foreign Minister on stage at the Berlin International Film Festival? It's simple: For three minutes, he will travel back in time to when he was the young student Frank Steinmeier.

Dear Michael,

I was about 20 years old. With a few bottles of beer, and preoccupied by worries about the world and self-doubt, some long-haired friends of mine and I took our seats in a small, dark cinema in north Hesse. And then we watched The Marriage of Maria Braun. With the wonderful Hanna Schygulla. The story was driven by the poetic force of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and it was observed, or better accompanied and led, by your cinematography.

Back then, your film opened our eyes to our own country. To look on war, which destroys people and dreams, and to look on stodgy post-war Germany, with an asphyxiating society from which we wanted to escape.

Since then, I have watched every single one of your films. They showed me a world that I would not have seen without you.

One thing you said is deeply etched in my mind:

“Between the main characters, something magical must happen. Should we do a half circle around them? Why not all the way around, then!” – That’s how you invented the 360-degree tracking shot.

And isn't that what we all should do: not be satisfied with only half a perspective! We should open our eyes wide and expand our field of vision, trying to gain a better understanding of our counterparts, and of the world.

That also applies to foreign policy. If we want to understand anything in this world, we need a 360-degree tracking shot: travel once all the way around what is happening, also getting a view from the other side.

But there is one difference: Between main characters in politics, something magical happens only very rarely – and the action always lasts longer than 90 minutes!

As a diplomat, it was all the more important for me to speak here today, Michael – to say thank you. For your films. For the fact that your art has remained political. Because it shows us life. Because it makes us open our eyes and assume responsibility for, and in, the society in which we live.

Dear Michael: I am sure you will agree when I include Dieter Kosslick in my words of thanks. Because it is his festival – it is the Berlin International Film Festival that opens our eyes, our hearts and our minds for films just like yours.

I congratulate the festival on selecting Michael for this honour – and, dear Michael, I congratulate you wholeheartedly and with full conviction on receiving the Honorary Golden Bear!

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