US actress Kristen Stewart recalled the political character of the Berlinale. And other members of the jury also discussed the relationship between politics and film at the opening press conference on Thursday. “This festival in particular is positively confrontational and political in terms of its history,” said Stewart, 32, who is this year’s jury president.

In times of political crisis, films are a good remedy against feelings of powerlessness. “It’s a great way to help emphasize beautiful things at a time when they’re hard to hold on to,” said Stewart. “I think it’s an artist’s job to take a disgusting or bad subject, process it, and turn it into something more beautiful, helpful.”

Farahani on the situation in Iran

The Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani (39) is also part of the seven-member jury that decides on the awarding of the Golden and Silver Bears at the end of the festival. She drew attention to the difficult situation in her country. “Iran, this is a dictatorship, it’s not just something philosophical or theoretical. The people in Iran lack the oxygen, the air to breathe,” said Farahani.

For her, Berlin is the city where the Wall came down, a symbol of freedom, Farahani said. She is happy that the Berlinale is celebrating cinema and film and that people are working together to promote art and culture. “Even if you have the feeling that the world is collapsing in many places, not just in Iran,” she explained, referring to the war in Ukraine and the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Johnnie To: Dictatorships are against film

The Chinese director and jury member Johnnie To (67) said about the importance of film and cinema: “Dictatorships in particular are against the film because film, because cinema has such a close connection to the audience, to the people. It applies worldwide: If If you want to fight for freedom, then you have to fight for the cinema, for the film.”

This year’s jury also includes German director Valeska Grisebach (“Western”), US casting agent Francine Maisler (“Dune”, “She Said”), Romanian director Radu Jude and Spanish director Carla Simón, whose film “Alcarràs” won last year.

The Berlinale will be officially opened on Thursday evening with the comedy “She Came to Me” by director Rebecca Miller. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj should also be connected via video. Selenskyj will be introduced by Hollywood star Sean Penn, who is presenting his Ukraine film “Superpower” at the Berlinale.