Meryl Streep on Berlin Controversy: “I Did Not ‘Defend’ the ‘All-White Jury'”


Earlier this month, Meryl Streep, infallible goddess, made what seemed like the mistake of publicly speaking out about Hollywood’s general lack of diversity. It happened during the Berlin International Film Festival, where she was serving as the president of the jury. She was quoted as saying “We are all Africans.” She’s now taken to the Internet to address the controversy, writing an open letter on Huffington Post, just like all the good millennials would hope.

Streep begins the post by saying “Something wonderful happened at the Berlin Film Festival this past weekend, something about which American audiences may be unaware or indifferent.” She goes on to talk about the film that won the top prize, Fire At Sea, which “takes a hard look at the overloaded boats filled with despairing, half-dead immigrants from Africa.” Streep is implying that this, a real film that examines real issues, does not concern America as much as a rich white woman apparently saying, in a way, that she is an African.

Well, Meryl, you’re right.

Still, she goes on to clarify the controversy.

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, but emphasizing the invisible connection empathy enables.”

Ah, OK, Meryl. This is a good, expected explanation, one that mirrors what we said in our initial reporting of the incident. But one has to wonder: why didn’t Meryl take the hour or two to write this response two weeks ago, when this was something people were putting into headlines? I suppose it is nice that she cleared up her stance before the Oscars air this Sunday, though.

Read the full letter here.