On the initiative of the Goethe-Institut, acclaimed directors from 20 countries will create short films against censorship of not more than 45 seconds each. The films are intended as a visual mark of solidarity with people in countries where freedom of opinion is restricted and will draw attention to the dangers of censorship that threaten even supposedly liberal societies.
To mark the international opening of the project, the first 14 films will be released simultaneously and published on social media. Others will appear over the following weeks. The German-French cultural channel ARTE is a media partner.
The directors of the project are from the following countries: Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, China, Germany, Georgia, Great Britain, Indonesia, Israel, Austria, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Hungary, the USA and Vietnam.
Cut it Out – Films against Censorship
A museum director is dismissed because his approach does not conform to the tenets of national historiography. A liberal university loses its licence without being given reasons. A film support fund is forced by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs to release the names of editors who support the funding of politically unwelcome films. A journalist investigates suspected state corruption and faces threatened prosecution.
We are the New Ones
The suppression of political disagreement, dissenting opinions and counter positions are well known from classic autocracies. Meanwhile, censorship as a (cultural-)political instrument is also increasingly employed in countries that call themselves democratic. Although they claim to do so with reference to overriding needs, their intentions are frequently different. Thus, at the end of 2016, David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, stated: ‘I am especially concerned that many governments assert legitimate grounds for restriction, such as protection of national security or public order or the rights of others, as fig leaves to attack unpopular opinion or criticism of government and government officials’. Faced with immense political and social, technological and ecological challenges in the world, freedom of expression appears to become dispensable in the eyes of many. However, such dispensability is deceptive. Freedom of expression and artistic freedom are instrumental for the shaping of the future. They form the basis for processes of exchange without which all the present and future challenges cannot be met.
What’s not here can’t disappear
More problematic even than individual acts of censorship are the psychological consequences. Censorship leads to self-censorship. This is, to be sure, by no means a mere side effect. Only through self-censorship does an act of censorship develop those extensive effects that are its ultimate goal. And while it may be possible to cope with an individual act of censorship because, as an event that occurred, it is at least theoretically refutable, self-censorship eludes any concrete proof. For how can one hear the unsaid? And how can one read the unwritten? It has not disappeared from the world but was never there. Almost forty years ago, in Mut zur Meinung, a collection of articles she edited, author Ingeborg Drewitz, warned: ‘It would be wrong to assume that the cases of actual censorship mentioned in this book meanwhile can be isolated as a consequence of public hysteria and thus discounted; hence the book may be seen as a mere summary of a fatal development. On the contrary, a habit of wariness has set in, of I’d-rather-not-say.’
The King at Hunting
Asked about the phenomenon of censorship, Temur Butikashvili, one of the directors participating in the project, referred to the 18th century monk, diplomat and writer Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani who lived in Georgia and wrote the fable ‘The King and the Painter’. In it, the author tells of a kingdom whose ruler one day asked for a portrait of himself. The painter who was called in, despaired at the task for the king was blind on one eye. ‘If I paint him with two healthy eyes,’ the painter thought, ‘I will be called a liar. But if I paint him with one eye only, I will also incur his displeasure – I am doomed to die!’ Yet, as the painter was still wrestling with his fate, an idea struck him. As the king’s commonly-known passion was hunting, the painter represented him taking aim with a rifle in his hands and narrowed eyes. This image satisfied the king and saved the painter from death.
 David Kaye, New York, 20.10.2016): United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner
 Drewitz, Ingeborg; Eilers, Wolfhart (Hrsg.): Mut zur Meinung. Gegen die zensierte Freiheit, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1980.