April 20, 2024

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Lupita Nyong’o Makes History as First Black Head of Berlin Film Festival Jury

Lupita Nyong’o, a Kenyan actress, has become the first black person to chair the Berlin International Film Festival jury.

The annual film showcase, also known as the Berlinale, is one of the world’s five largest film festivals. Organizers said last year that the event had never had a black jury head in its 74-year history.

Nyong’o will lead the jury in selecting the Golden and Silver Bear winners. The top five international film festivals – Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and Toronto – have frequently been criticized for their lack of diversity on juries.

The Cannes Festival, the largest and second-oldest of these, appointed its first black jury president in 2020 when American director Spike Lee was chosen.

On Thursday, Nyong’o said she was “greatly honored” to accept the position at the event’s opening in Germany’s capital. She added that the jury’s diversity would improve the process of deciding which films to award.

“That’s the beauty of bringing people from different backgrounds together – we respond to different things,” said the actress, who won an Oscar for 12 Years A Slave in 2014.

“We have a lot of global experience and opinions, and it will be interesting. It will probably also be spicy.”

Berlinale directors Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian chose Nyong’o as jury president in December, citing her versatility in acting and ability to appeal to diverse audiences.

The event will run until February 25th, when the jury will announce the winning films in the major categories. Three African entries are among the 20 vying for the top prize, and all feature stories from the continent.

They include Black Tea by Mauritanian-born Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, Who Do I Belong to by Tunisian-Canadian director Meryam Joobeur, and Dahomey, a documentary by French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop.

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