Meryl Streep Addresses the Race Controversy That Arose at the Berlin Film Festival

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

In a blog post on the Huffington Post today, Meryl Streep addresses the controversy that arose from her remarks at a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival, when she said, "We are all Africans, really." The breadth and diversity of the programming, she wrote, was "smothered in the U.S. by the volume of attention given to five words of mine at an opening press conference, which is too bad." Streep then goes on to cite some of the films honored, which include Fire at Sea, a film by Gianfranco Rosi looking at African immigrants trying to get to Europe; Tunisian filmmaker Mohamed Ben Attia's debut film, Heditells; and the Filipino film A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery.

Streep then addressed the controversy itself. First she chastised the press for "distorted reporting." She writes:

Contrary to distorted reporting, no one at that press conference addressed a question to me about the racial makeup of the jury. I did not "defend" the "all-white jury," nor would I, if I had been asked to do so. Inclusion — of races, genders, ethnicities and religions — is important to me, as I stated at the outset of the press conference.

Then she explains that the comment "We are all Africans" came within a "longwinded" response to a question about her familiarity with Arab films. She goes on to explain she was talking about the empathic power of art:

I was not minimizing difference, but emphasizing the invisible connection empathy enables, a thing so central to the fact of being human, and what art can do: convey another person's experience. To be in Berlin is to see proof that walls don't work.