Secretary General of Amnesty International Markus N. Beeko welcomed us at the presentation of the Amnesty International Film Prize. A full audience gathered for the event in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele on Sunday, February 17, the last day of the festival. Bekko greeted Dieter Kosslick, retiring head of the Berlinale, for probably Kosslick’s last official responsibility. Amnesty is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The Berlinale turns 70 in 2020 but under new direction.
Together Beeko and Kosslick discussed the goals of Amnesty and the contributions that film has made to accomplish these goals. A serious problem is the inhuman suffering not only of innocent people, but even those who are guilty, namely those who land in prison, a hell of torture, rape, and isolation. Through film we learn about these victims, many the victims of war. For example, director Michael Winterbottom filmed the experience of three innocent men, tortured in Guantanamo Prison, in his film THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO, which premiered at the Berlinale in 2006. Winterbottom was award the Silver Bear for best director. It featured three British citizens who were captured in Afghanistan and locked up in Guantanamo for over two years. All three walked the red carpet at the Berlinale for the opening of that film.
Dieter Kosslick and Markus Beeko agree that film can change things, and yes, the Berlinale is political, which leads to tolerance. “There are still too many idiots in the world and we have to continue to fight.”
Kosslick appeared in his usual red scarf and said that now that he is retiring his famous scarf and hat will be displayed in the Film Museum. Beeko approved of the plan and to replace the scarf going into the museum, Beeko gave Kosslick an Amnesty International scarf of yellow and black.
The Amnesty International Film Award went to YOUR TURN/Espero tua (re) volta, from Brazil. It depicts various student movements in 2013, 2015, 017 in Sao Paolo. The National Student Union led strikes in 93 schools, which closed down. Students reorganized, and “lived” in the schools, cooking on their own in the school cafeteria. The police confronted the young people and tear gas bombs went off in the streets. One bomb cost the same as a 500 school lunches. Several of the students are pinpointed, Nayara, Marcos, etc., and they all agree that they found a certain freedom in the sit-down strikes in the schools, making their own meals, meeting others whom they would not necessarily know, learning how to organize. The President of Brazil during filming was Michael Temer, August 2016 – December 2018. This documentary includes at least 20 different demonstrations and in its 90 minutes enough bombs went off to have financed 16,000 student lunches.
Before and after the film showing we got to know the director Eliza Capai. She summarized her life: She was born in 1979. At age 12 she became the president of a school union began actively protesting. The Portuguese title, ESPERO TUA stands for “Wait/Hope,” in this case for a revolt. She said that much of her film comes from archives from Brazilian television; she talked with many of these documentary filmmakers, as well as students, including the three main narrators. At this point the film had not yet shown in Brazil. She is not quite sure how she can protect some of the students who are quite active in protesting, if the film does come out in Brazil.
Amnesty has been choosing a winner at the Berlinale for the last 15 years, contributing a 5000-euro prize. Interesting is that there were 18 films nominated, representing all categories from those in general competition to Berlinale Special, Panorama, Forum and Prespektive Deutsches Kino. This winner happened to come from the Generation 14plus or “children” section.” It also won the Berlinale Peace Prize.