Opinion: When Activism Goes Bad: Emergency Blankets and Black Ties, Celebrities in Solidarity with Refugee Rights are a Tasteless Exploitation


Not everyone was impressed with the moment when guests were asked by organizers of the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin to wrap themselves in metallic emergency blankets— similar to those given to wet refugees arriving on Greek islands by the boatload every day.

The stunt was intended as an act of solidarity with the plight of refugees by event organizer Ai Weiwei, who also created an art installation using 14,000 life vests flown in from Lesvos, just outside the concert hall where the event was held.

Disgustingly bad Instagram posts from the Cinema For Peace Gala in Berlin

Perhaps using the emergency vests in Greece to help real refugees could have been a better statement. And some of the “celebrities” present could have followed the lead of other celebrities and actually visit the Greek islands and help a bit, the way Susan Sarandon spent her Christmas holidays.


A photo posted by Jessica Official (@yessie_ka) on

Artnet News called it “offensively tasteless.” Although everyone inside seemed to relish the message, symbolism and photo opportunity— not all were impressed. Berlin’s culture senator Tim Renner called the act obscene on a Facebook post and German magazine Stern called it crass, describing scenes from the evening’s red carpet as celebrities like Charlize Theron walked up the stairs in evening gowns alongside a black rubber boat carrying a banner with the words “Safe Passage” on it.    

The scene inside was an obnoxious display of how out of touch some people really are, wrapping themselves in emergency vests used to save people’s lives and posing for ridiculous selfies that they shared on social media with the hashtag #cinemaforpeace

A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

  Some clearly had no idea of the ridiculous implications of what they were doing, like these puffy-lipped blondes who called themselves “golden girls” in an Instagram post.

A photo posted by Sandra Krebs (@saendyk) on

  Others defaced statues that adorn the Berlin concert hall with discarded jackets.

A photo posted by KÖNIG GALERIE (@koeniggalerie) on

  One Finnish-born actress-model named Annika Stenvall wrote on her Instagram “I wasn’t even supposed to make it into the shower last night but somehow I ended up in this.” I wonder if she knows what “this” really is— that “this” (or “these”, rather, save lives and are not a fashion statement or something to take as lightly as to create a bed to mock and lay in.



  1. we deserve everything we get. Remember that even this site was fawning when Susan Sarandon had her photo ops in Lesbos. They’re all liberals, but each has a cadre of tax attorneys protecting their assets. Everything they do is for publicity.

    • I saw Susan Sarandon in Lesvos when i was volunteering there. She spent weeks on end going up and down the coast, talking to volunteers, to refugees, using her celebrity status to get some spotlight on the work being done there and the immense needs that refugees face. I am amazed by her doing so, and her presence there was wonderful. It’s not publicity, kid, it’s someone using their media capital to bring attention to something important.

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