Meryl Streep, who was recently catapulted into the #OscarsSoWhite controversy after telling a reporter at the Berlin Film Festival “We’re all Africans, really,” published a blog on the Huffington Post on Thursday called “Setting the Record Straight From Berlin.”
As previously reported, Streep’s quote was originally taken out of context—it was not, as outlets including Jezebel first implied, in response to a question about the Berlinale Film Festival’s all white jury. In the article, Streep criticized this “distorted reporting,” and lamented the fact that her statement overshadowed the work of the festival’s winners, which included a diverse range of storytelling—from filmmakers including Mohamed Ben Attia, Lav Diaz, Yang Chao, and Gianfranco Rosi—about which “American audiences may be unaware or indifferent.”
The lede was buried in the story of the Berlin festival, the largest in the world. These stories of people from China, Somalia, Mali, Sudan, and Tunisia—testaments to the impact, importance and diversity of global cinema—have been 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 also reiterated that her quote was taken out of context, adding that “as with any artistic jury, even as president, I had no input into who would serve with me”:
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.
In a longwinded answer to a different question asked of me by an Egyptian reporter concerning the film from Tunisia, Arab/African culture, and my familiarity with Arab films specifically, I said I had seen and loved Theeb, and Timbuktu, but admitted, “I don’t know very much about, honestly, the Middle East, ...and yet I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures. And the thing I notice is that we’re all — I mean there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all, we’re all from Africa originally, you know? We’re all Berliners, we’re all Africans, really.”
“I was not minimizing difference,” the post continues, “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.”
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