On Thursday, three-time Oscar winner, Meryl Streep — who is heading an all-white jury at the Berlin Film Festival — said, "We're all Africans, really," in response to a question about her understanding of the culture and films of the Arab World and Africa.
The seven-member jury includes German actor Lars Eidinger, British film critic Nick James, French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, British actor Clive Owen, Italian actor Alba Rohrwacher, and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking to reporters, Streep said she was committed to equality and inclusion "of all genders, races, ethnicities, religions."
"There should be inclusion, and 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 told reporters. "So I think the Berlinale is ahead of the game."
"Inclusion is the name of the day," she said.
A reporter then asked Streep, "There is a film that is representing Tunisia and the Arab world and Africa in the main competition. How do you see this part of the world, and is it easy for you to understand that culture, and are you following any of the Arab movies?"
Streep responded: "Yes, in fact I've just seen a film called Theeb, which I loved. I saw Timbuktu recently...but I don't know very much about the Middle East, and yet I've played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures. The thing that I notice is that there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture. And, after all, we're all from Africa originally; we're all Berliners, we're all Africans, really. We have a critic on our jury, we have a director on our jury, we have actors, a photographer, cinematographer; people will be looking at different things in these films, but we're human beings, and film is an emotional experience. We're going to make these decisions based on what our head wants to say, but we're first attacked in the heart. That's an interesting process and I'm so looking forward to it."
The lack of diversity in the movie industry has been a contentious debate that has led several celebrities to boycott the Oscars this year.
In January, British actor Charlotte Rampling called the Oscar boycott "racist to white people," while Michael Caine said, "You can't vote for an actor because he's black. You can't just say, 'I'm going to vote for him. He's not very good, but he's black. I'll vote for him.' You have to give a good performance."
People were not too pleased with Streep's remark.
This post and headline has been corrected to accurately state the question Streep was answering. A previous version stated the question was about the lack of diversity on the panel. This post now includes her complete answer as well.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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