By Michael Roddy
BERLIN (Reuters) - The international premiere at the Berlin film festival for the Coen brothers' "Hail, Caesar!" turned into a debate about refugees on Thursday as the filmmakers and cast found themselves challenged at a news conference to do more to end the crisis.
Over one million refugees arrived in Europe last year, many fleeing war and poverty. Thousands died in the perilous journey, mostly by sea and then land. The influx has put governments under strain, and countries are tightening their asylum rules.
One questioner suggested that George Clooney, one of the stars of "Hail, Caesar!", should do a remake of his film "Syriana" which was about murky oil industry deals in the Middle East, but this time focus on refugees.
Clooney responded that he would be meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday to discuss refugees, and would visit a refugee center.
Clooney, who is married to the human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, also said he had visited some dangerous places in order to help the cause of refugees. But he said he was not sure the cinema was the best place to try to solve the crisis.
"I think it is best told right now in the news media. I think it's not told enough – certainly in our country it's not told enough – and not talked about enough," he said.
The Coen brothers also pushed back at the suggestion that the film industry is the right place to deal with a major political and social issue like the millions of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere.
"You're right that's a very important issue, it's something that I would be very interested to see movies address," Joel Coen said in response to another questioner.
"But it's absurd to say, if I may say so, that anyone who happens to be in public life or in some kind of creative endeavor, to point a finger and say, 'You should be helping this particular story'...
"It's misunderstanding about how stories get written and made."
The Coen brothers said their film was intended to be an affectionate look at the Hollywood studio system of the 1950s, through the eyes of a fixer who kept stars' names off police blotters and out of the gossip columns.
Star Josh Brolin, who plays the fixer Eddie Mannix, said one of the best moments in the film was getting to slap Clooney, whose character is a dimwitted star who gets mixed up with communists at a time of "red scares" and communist witchhunts in the United States.
"It's something that everybody's wanted to do at some point in their lives," Brolin said. Then looking straight at the cameras and journalists added: "I did it for all of you."
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Raissa Kasolowsky)