Renowned South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, famous for his disturbing and controversial art-house films, has been invited to premiere his latest film at the Berlin International Film Festival, leading an actress who had accused the filmmaker of violence and sexual abuse in December 2017 to speak out against the festival's organizers.
The actress, who has refused to be publicly identified, told press agency AFP on Monday that she found "the decision to invite Kim deeply sad and extremely hypocritical," adding that she had been left "devastated" by her experience on set with him.
She had accused the director of physical and sexual abuse while shooting his 2013 film "Moebius," claiming that he beat her and forced her into unscripted, unwanted sex and nude scenes.
Kim admitted slapping the actress for the purposes of an "acting lesson" but denied the other allegations of wrongdoing. Seoul prosecutors dropped sexual abuse charges citing a lack of evidence, but fined Kim 5 million won (€3,800; $4,600).
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A deliberate decision by the Berlinale
According to Paz Lazaro, head of the Panorama section where Kim's latest work "Human, Space, Time and Human" will have its world premiere, the invitation was a deliberate decision made in order to "contribute to the difficult but important issue."
"Kim Ki-duk has promised to face the debate that may go beyond his film," Lazaro added.
Festival director Dieter Kosslick told AFP that the Berlinale was aware of the accusations against Kim, and that he knew that he had been convicted and fined while noting that the sexual harassment allegations had been dismissed for lack of evidence.
"Of course, we condemn any violence on set, whether of sexual or any other nature," Kosslick said. He also claimed that numerous films were rejected from the festival program this year due to ongoing allegations.
The actress questioned the logic of the decision to invite Kim, saying that the festival "rolled out a red carpet to him while boasting about their support for the #MeToo movement."
Petition to blacken the red carpet
Thousands of people feel that the carpet shouldn't be red at all. German actress Claudia Eisinger approached Kosslick with the request to blacken the red festival carpet in the wake of the #MeToo debate.
"In Hollywood, actresses and actors wear black dresses. In Berlin, we want a black carpet," Eisinger wrote in the petition that was published on the platform Change.org. It had collected almost 17,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
Kosslick has emphasized that the Berlinale wants to focus on the #MeToo debate this year, but that is not enough for Eisinger.
"Color the red carpet black and stand against sexual abuse and discrimination in the film industry," calls the petition.
fs/jt/eg (AFP, dpa)