Film festival bans allies

2003-03-22 11:41
Oberhausen, Germany - Wallace and Gromit may be the only Britons appearing at the 49th Oberhausen Short Film Festival, after organisers on Friday announced a ban on cultural officials from the United States, Britain, Spain and Italy in protest against the Iraq war.

In a tersely worded statement, organisers of the world's oldest international showcase for shorts, cartoons and other films under 60 minutes in length said the ban pertains to "any official representatives" from those four nations.

Ironically, a score of shorts in the competition line-up are from those four countries, including the latest Wallace and Gromit two- minute thriller, "The Snoozatron", by the British animation team of Loyd Price and Christopher Sadler.

Also on view will be films from Japan, Poland, Latvia and other countries which support the US-led war in Iraq.

In all, the Oberhausen festival has scheduled 360 entries from some 50 countries. Of those, 70 will be up for awards at the fest, which runs May 1-6 in the town of Oberhausen.

The move comes amidst a wave of anti-war sentiment in Germany, which broke ranks with the United States on the Iraq issue six months ago when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder vowed not to have any part in what he call "American adventurism" in Iraq.

Polls show 80 per cent of Germans oppose the war, and tens of thousands of Germans have taken to the streets this week to protest against the outbreak of hostilities.

"The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen denounces the aggressive policies espoused by the governments of Great Britain, Italy, Spain and the USA, which have led them to disregard international law and condone the deaths of thousands of innocent human beings," the festival said in a statement.

"In the almost 50 years of its existence, the oldest short film festival in the world has discovered and promoted many artists from all over the world. Our work, as that of any other international festival, is geared towards a better understanding between different nations.

"We have therefore decided not to tolerate the presence of any official representatives of the Aznar, Berlusconi, Blair and Bush administrations at our festival."

Festival press spokeswoman Sabina Niewalda told Deutsche Presse- Agentur and not to filmmakers from those four countries.

"In the past we have always sent invitations to embassy and consular officials who have generally showed great interest in attending the ceremonies," she said.

"This year, in view of the situation, it was decided they should not be invited. But this exclusion does not extend to representatives of cultural organizations from those countries."

Films are chosen from more than 350 entries each year for the festival which has a reputation for innovation and controversy - as demonstrated again this year. - Sapa-DPA


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