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Berlinale 2024: Lupita Nyong'o, the festival's first African jury President

Berlinale 2024: Lupita Nyong'o, the festival's first African jury President
The Film Festival, Berlinale International Jury with head Lupita Nyong'o (4th from left) in Berlin on Feb. 15, 2024.   -  
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Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


Academy Awards winning Kenyan-Mexican Lupita Nyong'o is making history by heading the Berlinale's international jury.

The 74th Berlinale Film Festival began Thursday (Feb. 15) with the presentation of the international jury.

For the second year in a row the jury is headed by a woman expert. US actress Kristen Sewart presided over the 2023 International jury. 

This year’s jury is headed by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and made up of actor-directors Brady Corbet and Jasmine Trinca and directors Ann Hui, Petzold and Albert Serra alongside Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko. 

Being a newcomer to the work of a film jury Lupita Nyongo shared her excitement to gain experience and work with her jury colleagues: " It is an honour to be here, a deep pleasure."

"This is my first time attending the Berlin Film Festival. And I feel greatly honoured to be the president of this year's festival," she said.

"It's a chance to get to experience a whole lot of films from around the world. There's quite the selection here, that is representative of a lot of world perspective. And I get to do it with prolific artists, that I deeply respect and that have a whole lot more experience doing this kind of thing than I do. So, this is a chance for me to learn a lot about the world of cinema and to celebrate it," she told the opening presser.

The panel will have to screen twenty films that are competing for the Silver and Golden Bears, which will be presented to the winners at the Award Ceremony on February 24.

Three African entries are among the 20 competing for the top prize.

The festival will open tonight (Feb. 15) with the Irish-Belgian drama "Small Things Like These" by director Tim Mielants. Leading actor is Cillian Murphy, who is nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Oppenheimer" and producer Matt Damon.

The festival runs through Feb. 25.

According to the Berlinale, around 200 films of all genres, lengths and formats are shown in the various sections and special presentations of the festival. 

Versatile and consistent actress

Nyong'o is the first ever African president of the Berlinale panel which selects the winners of the Golden and Silver Bear top prizes.

Germany, the UK, the USA and France have provided the festival with most of its jury presidents.

“Lupita Nyong'o embodies what we like in cinema: versatility in embracing different projects, addressing different audiences, and consistency to one idea that is quite recognisable in her characters, as diverse as they may look,” Berlinale directors Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said late last year.

Since her 2014 Oscar win, the 40-year-old producer has gone on to much success playing warrior Nakia in "Black Panther" and its sequel, Adelaide Wilson in horror movie "Us", Nakku Harriet in "Queen of Katwe" and venturing into the children's book world with "Sulwe".

Nyong'o secured the Oscar Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her playing Patsey in "12 Years a Slave".

She has bagged multiples awards including NAACP an Image Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Awards and and two Black Reel awards.

73-year history

The festival was created for the Berlin public in 1951 with the ambition to be a "showcase of the free world". The Cold War had just begun.

Alongside Cannes and Venice, the Berlinale is one of the world's major film festivals and is traditionally considered to be the most political one of all.

In 1956 the festival gained more prestige when the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) accredited the festival. This episode is commonly referred to as an awarding of the "A status."

This accreditation subjected the festival to the FIAFP guidelines and it also paved the way for the institution of an international jury of experts. This panel took up the awarding of the festival's top prizes in which the audience previously had a say.

Political questions surrounding Putin, Israel, German politics and Ukraine dominated Thursday's (Feb. 15) press conference.

One that was asked repeatedly and could not be swerved, was that surrounding the AfD party invitations to the festival.

Last week, organizers uninvited representatives of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, to the opening gala.

Five AfD politicians had been expected because members of all parties in Berlin’s state legislature are invited to events that are supported with public money.

In recent weeks, Germany has seen large protests against the far right following a report that groups met to discuss deporting millions of immigrants, including some with German citizenship, and that some members of AfD were present.

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