This year's festival has turned the spotlight on women with a record 41 percent of the award contenders made by female directors and a strong focus on female protagonists
One of Germany's most acclaimed directors, Fatih Akin, hit back Saturday at criticism of his new film about a real-life serial killer, "The Golden Glove", charging that it exploits the female victims.
Akin, who won a Golden Globe award last year for his terrorism drama "In the Fade" starring Diane Kruger, insisted the ultra-violent new picture aimed to grant "dignity" to both the killer and the slain women.
"We are living in a time in which the discussion about sexual violence is everywhere and that is justified," Akin told reporters at the Berlin film festival, where the picture premiered.
"But when you make a film about sexual violence, you have to show it," he said after facing several pointed questions.
Akin said he had no desire to "glorify" violence against women with the film's scenes graphically depicting sexual torture, murder and dismemberment which many viewers said left them feeling queasy.
He said he had shown the film to pimps he knew from his hometown Hamburg's red-light district, where the movie is set.
"You can talk to them until you're blue in the face about how wrong violence against women is and #MeToo and it goes in one ear and out the other," Akin said.
"But if people who have committed violence against women say '(this movie's) too brutal for me', then maybe it's naive but I'm hopeful that the film will have an impact on them."
Akin said for all the heightened sensitivity around sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry, it should not be used to stifle artistic freedom.
"Of course you think about #MeToo stuff and I support it," he said.
"But it should not... create censorship."
Akin, who has billed the film a "horror movie", based it on author Heinz Strunk's novel of the same title, named for the seedy pub where the real killer Fritz Honka met his victims.
Most were alcoholics who went home with men in exchange for liquor. Honka killed at least four women between 1970 and 1975 until their mutilated rotting corpses were discovered in his flat.
Akin employed female psychologists on set to help the cast and crew deal with any intense feelings that arose.
Actress Margarethe Tiesel said she had received "very dignified" treatment during difficult scenes.
"I did not feel used or helpless -- I felt protected and we simply told the truth" in the film, she said.
Akin admitted that the marketing of the picture could be tricky.
"I shouldn't even say it because I'm trying to get people into cinemas to watch this but the movie will not be everyone's cup of tea and that's OK," he said.
"If I started making movies everyone would enjoy then I wouldn't make anything truthful, dammit."
"The Golden Glove" is one of 17 films vying for the Berlin festival's Golden Bear prize for best picture, to be awarded by jury president Juliette Binoche on February 16.
Akin, whose family's roots are in Turkey, clinched top honours in 2004 for the gritty drama "Head-On", set in Hamburg and Istanbul, which launched his international career.
This year's festival has turned the spotlight on women with a record 41 percent of the award contenders made by female directors and a strong focus on female protagonists.