African Students storm a West Berlin cinema in a protest action (1966)

On 2 August 1966 fifty Black and white West Berlin university students stormed the premiere of the Italian documentary film Africa Addio, playing at the Astor Cinema on Kurfürstendamm. Among them were members of SDS (Socialist German Student Union); the co-founder of Commune I, Fritz Teufel; members of the African Student Union and their chair, the 28-year-old Nigerian student Adekunle Ajala. In the course of the tumult the protesters slashed seats, the movie screen was smeared with paint, and rows of chairs were ripped out of their anchors. The high point of the protest came when Adekunle Ajala stood demonstratively before the screen, arms spread wide, and closed the curtain.

Africa Addio was a production of the Italian director Gualtiero Jacopetti. The documentary has come under fierce critique because of its violent, racist depictions that glorify colonialism. Among other things, Africa Addio shows the execution of a 12-year-old Congolese boy by white mercenaries working for dictator Moïse Tschombé. Beforehand, Jacopetti had offered to select the site for the execution to provide the best lighting.

The protest action on 2 August led to eight arrests and property damange amounting to over 10,000 DM. As the photographs below show, the protest continued on the days following, even though already there had been some 600-800 protesters and 295 police officers in front of the theatre. By the end of these confrontations, there were 43 arrests.

After nine heavily interrupted screenings, the Astor had to remove the film from the program. The film distribution company withdrew Africa Addio from circulation shortly thereafter in order to have it reassessed by the film industry’s voluntary self-regulation body (FSK).

The historian Quinn Slobodian describes the protest as “the most prominent public political action by African students” of the 1960s.

Philipp Khabo Koepsell


Source: Fotografien des Kurfürstendamms, Proteste gegen Africa Addio vom 3. August 1966. Henschel-Fotobestand, Signatur B01_0019_20-24. FHXB Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum, Berlin.

African students storm a West Berlin cinema in a protest action (1966) by Philipp Khabo Koepsell and Jeff Bowersox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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