Berlin Film Festival. Ai Weiwei’s segment cut from ‘Berlin, I Love You’

Deutsche Welle 2.18.2019

Producers of the film ‘Berlin, I Love You’ have cited Chinese influence as the reason they cut Ai Weiwei’s segment. The artist told DW that the Berlin International Film Festival suggested his section be removed.

Ai is an outspoken critic of China’s government and spent four years under house arrest in China until he was finally allowed to leave the country in July 2015. He then moved to Berlin.

The Berlin Film Festival told DW they do not comment on films that had not been selected, but added: “We can confirm that the involvement of Ai Weiwei would never be a criteria for choosing or not choosing a film.”

Ai Weiwei DW 2.18.2019

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s segment in the film “Berlin, I Love You” was cut from the final version due to concerns the artist had become a political liability, the artist and film producers said.

“The reason we were given for the episode’s removal was that my political status had made it difficult for the production team to secure further funding,” Ai told DW reporter Melissa Chan.

Ai told DW that the Berlin International Film Festival had suggested his participation in the film had made it difficult for the producers to submit it as an entry to the event, a claim the festival has denied.

“[The producers] told me they submitted this film to the Berlin Film Festival and the festival told them, if Ai Weiwei’s in there, the film can never be accepted,” Ai said.

DW’s Melissa Chan reviewed a document which appeared to confirm Ai’s story.

“Berlin, I Love You” is not the only film to have succumbed to apparent influence from China. Earlier, top Chinese director Zhang Yimou withdrew his film “One Second” — set during the Cultural Revolution — from consideration for the Berlinale’s prized Golden Bear in what is widely believed to be censorship and control by Chinese officials.


Female German referee. Bundesliga broadcast canceled in Iran

SCARY. We know what the Ayatollahs think about women’s place in society. 

Deutsche Welle 2.17.2019

Iranian state TV did not broadcast a Bundesliga soccer match because of the presence of a woman as referee, media say. The Islamic country censors the showing of women in “revealing” clothes such as football shorts.

Bibiana Steinhaus, 39, is the first woman to have officiated at men’s football matches at a professional level in Germany. She refereed her first Bundesliga match in September 2017.

The broadcast was reportedly canceled because the Iran’s strict Islamic regulations do not allow the showing of images of women wearing clothes that reveal large amounts of skin, such as football shorts.

The Waiting Rooms of History

Anna Seghers was born Anna Reiling in Mainz, Germany in 1900, the only child of a wealthy art dealer.  Anna studied art history and Sinology. She received her Doctorate in 1924 with a dissertation on “Jews and Judaism in the Work of Rembrandt.”

Anna married a Hungarian who introduced her to Communism. She joined the German Communist Party in 1928. In 1932, Anna Seghers published “Die Gefaehrten” (The Fellows) warning of the dangers of Fascism. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Anna was arrested by the Gestapo. Anna fled to Paris with her two children and in 1941 left France for Mexico.

Biographical Note by Liz Heidhues excerpted from  a course “The Zero Hour” taught by Dr. Marion Gerlind.


Transit –  Review by J Hoberman.

Written and directed by Christian Petzold, adapted from the novel by Anna Seghers

New York Review of Books 3.7.2019

The protagonist of Anna Seghers’s novel Transit (1944)—the source for Christian Petzold’s new film of the same name—is a young German who, having escaped from a Nazi concentration camp and then a French work camp, makes his way to occupied Paris. There he is recruited by another former inmate to deliver a letter to an anti-fascist writer named Weidel. The letter is described to him as a desperate plea from Weidel’s estranged wife, Marie, who is stranded in Marseille.

But Weidel, as Seghers’s nameless fugitive discovers, has committed suicide in a Left Bank hotel room. Carrying the dead man’s suitcase, which contains a manuscript that he reads out of boredom, as well as the letter, the fugitive travels to Marseille; once there, “a specter among the visa applicants,” he finds himself, almost unintentionally, taking Weidel’s identity and applying for his exit visa. The consul seems weirdly eager to help someone so distinguished. Waiting for passage to the New World among a disparate horde of desperate souls seeking to escape Europe, the fugitive shadows and is shadowed by Marie, who is frantically searching for her dead husband; thanks to the bureaucratic trail left by the imposter, she believes him to be alive in Marseille. Tipped off that her “husband” is enjoying a pizza in a harbor café, she finds only the fugitive Weidel, and her unrealizable pursuit continues.

Seghers’s existential thriller—recounted in the first person, a tale told by one refugee to another, and written while the author, having successfully gotten out of Marseille, was in exile in Mexico—has been described as Casablanca imagined by Franz Kafka.  Sartre’s No Exit, first performed in 1944, the same year that Transit was published in English and Spanish versions, is another analogue. So too perhaps is Camus’s The Stranger (1942). The underlying absurdity of the fugitive’s condition, as well as Transit’s understated modernism, belies Seghers’s reputation as a Marxist ideologue; most certainly this strain of absurdism helped interest Petzold in the material.

Israeli Democracy

In 1970 I spent three months in Israel. One night my traveling companion and I were at a roadside cafe in the Negev Desert. A patrol of Israeli soldiers came by.  We engaged in a dialogue. At one point an Israeli soldier poked me in the stomach with his Uzi.  Half laughingly he told me, “If you were an Arab I would shoot you.”

Freedom and Despair: Notes from the South Hebron Hills

by David Shulman
University of Chicago Press, 198 pp., $54.00; $18.00 (paper)

Excerpted from New York Review of Books 3.7.2019

Review by Raja Hhehadeh

Photo. Israeli soldiers detaining a Palestinian during clashes at a protest, Hebron, West Bank, February 2018. Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

On June 2, 1980, three members of an offshoot of the right-wing Israeli settler movement, a terrorist group that became known as the Jewish Underground—Menachem Livni, Uzi Sharabaf, and Shaul Nir, all West Bank settlers—placed bombs under the cars of the Palestinian mayors of Ramallah, Bireh, and Nablus. The mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Shakaa, lost both his legs; Kareem Khalaf, the mayor of Ramallah, lost a foot. A rumor circulated that Menachem Livni worked at the military governor’s office in Ramallah. If so, I must have seen him there. When I heard what he had done and saw his picture, I wondered at the incongruity of his innocent-looking face.

The three were apprehended in 1984 and convicted in 1985 after another attack, which killed three Palestinian students at the Islamic College in Hebron. They received life sentences, but these were commuted by Israeli president Chaim Herzog. In 1990 they were released from prison, to the cheers of Jewish settlers and no real show of public protest. Menachem Livni now produces cabernet sauvignon at his winery in the settlement of Kiryat Arba next to Hebron.

Israeil Defense Forces 2.16.2019

Photo: Israeli Defense Force members

After the bombings, Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights NGO, met with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and urged an investigation of settler violence in the West Bank. In 1981 a committee to carry one out was formed by the Israeli attorney general, headed by his deputy, Judith Karp. The Karp Report: On the Investigations of Suspicions Against Israelis in Judea and Samaria, published in 1984, described numerous acts of violence carried out by Jewish settlers against Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, including assaults, destruction of property, armed threats, shootings, obstructed access to places of employment, and attacks on schoolchildren. It was not followed by any significant change in the ways settler violence was addressed by the Israeli police and security services.

Such criminal behavior is more widespread now than it was in the 1980’s.


15 unforgettable kisses for Valentine’s Day from Deutsche Welle

It may be a Day Late.  But there’s always time for a little Romance in this topsy turvy world.

Photo Above. Lady and the Tramp

Deutsche Welle 2.14.2019

Pucker up, buttercup! For Valentine’s Day, we look at the best smooches of all time — from those on the big screen to the most memorable real life kisses captured on camera.

Valentines Day II DW 2.155.2019

Golden kiss

The most famous of Gustav Klimt’s paintings comes from his so-called Golden Phase, in which he used a gold bronze, reminiscent of Christian paintings from the late Middle Ages. The works of art gain a touch of preciousness with the color, employed here in “Kiss,” a quadratic 180 x 180-centimeter piece completed between 1908 and 1909.

Jewish Museum Berlin bans Iranian state broadcaster

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 2.14.2019

The Jewish Museum Berlin has banned Iranian state broadcaster IRIB from filming on its premises, arguing the station spreads anti-Zionist propaganda. The decision has drawn backlash from German press associations.

Jewish Museum Berlin DW 2.14.2019

Nongovernmental organization Reporters Without Borders, however, took a different position, arguing that the Iranian state broadcaster is the mouthpiece of a “government which denies Israel’s right to exist.” That is why the organization respects the museum’s decision, managing director Christian Mihr told DW.

The Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) is currently showcasing an exhibition titled “Welcome to Jerusalem,” which attracted criticism from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it adopts a one-sided Muslim and Palestinian perspective. Netanyahu even demanded the German government cut back its financial support for the museum.

The JMB, however, decided to ban the Iranian broadcaster from filming on its premises. In a statement explaining the decision, the museum said that “the coverage of state-run broadcaster IRIB is clearly anti-Zionist, and has disseminated anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic propaganda.” The JMB expressed concern IRIB will “instrumentalize” the exhibition to further “its own agenda” and capitalize on the “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition to produce fake news for Iranian television. The museum added that IRIB has in the past provided a platform for Holocaust deniers “to disseminate false claims which constitute a criminal offense in Germany.”