Three-time Academy Award-winner Meryl Streep defended presiding over the all-white jury at the Berlin International Film Festival on Thursday, saying that because humanity traces its common ancestors to Africa, “we’re all Africans, really.”
At the opening of the 66th annual Berlinale, where she is president of the awards jury, the much-honored actress told reporters she was committed to diversity “of all genders, races, ethnicities, religions.”
“There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all, we’re all from Africa originally,” Streep, 66, said in comments reported by The Associated Press. “You know, we’re all” she began, and then paused and continued, “Berliners, we’re all Africans, really.”
When asked by an Egyptian reporter whether she were equipped to judge films from the Arab world and North Africa, Streep said that while she was not highly knowledgeable about the region, “I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”
The seven-member jury has three other women: French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska. The remainder consists of German actor Lars Eidinger, British film critic Nick James and British actor Clive Owen.
“This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions,” Streep said. “So I think the Berlinale is ahead of the game.”
The jury chooses the Golden Bear, the 11-day festival’s top film prize, as well as numerous Silver Bear awards. Last year’s Golden Bear went to the secretly filmed “Taxi” by Iranian dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi.
Diversity in film and in film awards became a hot-button issue after no actors of color were nominated for Oscars for a second consecutive year.