“There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we're all from Africa originally,” international movie star Meryl Streep told media at a Berlin film festival press conference on Thursday.
"We're all Berliners. We're all Africans, really."
Streep had just been asked by an Egyptian reporter how much she understands about Middle East and North Africa.
The question came after another reporter asked her about the cultural composition of the festival's all-white jury, which she is heading.
She answered it was "ahead of its game" because "at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury".
The festival promises "a diverse cultural scene" that attracts "more than 20,000 professional visitors from 128 countries."
The panel features Lars Eidinger (Germany), Nick James and Clive Owen (UK), Brigitte Lacombe (France), Alba Rohrwacher (Italy) and Małgorzata Szumowska (Poland).
Her comments are copping backlash online.
"It is because of our shared whiteness that I feel compelled to notify you that your characterization of white people on Thursday—that 'we’re all Africans, really'—is false," Slate writer Christina Cauterucci penned in an opinion piece on Thursday.
"Claiming African ancestry when you have none, at least not in the past few millennia, is insulting to people whose actual family history roots them in that continent and the diverse cultures, triumphs, and struggles it's seen."
Streep is regarded as one of Hollywood's greatest actors. She has won three Oscars and was nominated another 16 times. She has also picked up eight Golden Globes from 29 nominations during her career.
Eighteen films are vying for the Golden Bear prize at the Berlin film festival this year, which runs from 11 to 21 February.