Your thirst for movie will again be satisfied, because we’re not letting you get dry today, not even close! In fact, we have so much to offer today that we’re going to flood you with all the colors of the rainbow. And if this doesn’t make you want to just devour everything, then you’re doing something wrong. Today is one of the last days of first-time screeners, from tomorrow on you’ll get the chance to catch up on what you’ve missed. So grab that check list and start planning your movie day! Surely you wouldn’t want to miss anything And while we’re at it, I’d like to remind you of our Queer Academy Summit today. We’ll be starting at 11 am in the Berliner Freiheit. Be sure to check out the Summit’s Facebook Event for more information about the panel topics and participants – the entry is free!
A lesbian obsessively but tenderly relives the night she has just spent with a straight woman which has gone nowhere, just like the cul-de-sacs of San Francisco that seem to reflect her own unfulfilled expectations.
In four short films, three women and a transgender man from New York talk about their sexuality. The subjects unfiltered testimonials turn their “female misbehaviour” into a demonstration of female self-empowerment.
This film is a touching study of a microcosm which represents an entire society; a human mosaic of personal and political stories in which smouldering conflicts and heated discussions come together to form a multifaceted whole.
Based on true events, Isabel Coixet’s film makes use of black-and-white images and letters for her empathetic rendition of the story of Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas, who tied the knot in the church of San Jorge in A Coruña in Spain in 1901.
Struggle is the route to achievement, we all know the drill. If you’ve ever gone through any situation that makes this sound familiar, then you should hit the road to the cinemas. Watching these movies will make you feel as if you’re side by side with the characters, joining them as they wade through the deep waters of life’s so-called obstacles on the journey to their goals. Each and every one of them offers a different emotional outcome, ready to be experienced by their audience. Now, let’s get watching!
A curious look into the world of one of the most popular subcultural icon, Tom of Finland, with the artist himself handing you the keys. A documentary-like essay film about the gay male body as a political destination. Celebrate them oily muscle landscapes and let yourself be inspired!
A young white man visits a gallery of old master paintings. When the museum closes, he stays behind, arousing the sexual fantasies of an older black museum attendant. Made in a period of Thatcherism and the AIDS crisis, the film poetically explores topics of imperialism, queer self-determination, lust and death.
“Why are you always angry? Girls should be modest. Girls should behave well.” Rima Das’ coming-of-age tale sees three youngsters try to follow their hearts, despite the crippling weight of moral expectation their society presses on them.
Sex on the metro! The director has taken footage shot in a completely empty compartment on the London underground and married it to the off-camera reading of a pornographic text that includes detailed masturbation instructions for a female rider.
A tie or lace? After trying on numerous treasures from New York’s second-hand stores, Karola Gramann decides on a traditional dinner jacket with cummerbund and bow tie. We then see her posing & vogueing to Bryan Ferry’s “These Foolish Things”.
The last decade, and in particular the last few years, have witnessed the unprecedented breakout of queer films into the commercial mainstream. The likes of Brokeback Mountain, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Moonlight and Carol are now household names. And it has become almost a given that several TEDDY AWARD contenders each year will be picked up by major film distributors, as evidenced by the success of Call Me By Your Name, God’s Own Country and A Fantastic Woman. Whatever you might think of the respective merits and failings of those films, the growing appetite for LGBTQ+ film among distributors and audiences is undeniably a step in the right direction.
But there is a further pattern emerging that constrains the potential of these box-office hits (aside from the majority of those films containing white-only casts, and the poor representation of trans people – topics requiring their own discussions): the commercial template for a number of the films is to market them as monosexual, homosexual love stories. As a result, there is a seeming invisibility of bi-, pan- and poly-sexual love stories which disrupt the straight/gay binary. Where the New Queer Cinema of the ‘90s used queering techniques and narratives that exploded notions of gender and sexual classification, exploring the identities of LGBT as well as the spaces between those letters, the current trend seems to be to read queer romance narratives as monosexual love stories. In some instances, that reading is fair, but in many cases it over-simplifies the spectrum of the romances and sexualities depicted. If queer film is now making it to the mainstream, it’s about time critics and audiences alike learn to remove their monocles, and start viewing these films with the plurality from which they’re made.
Film critics play a crucial role in shaping popular conceptions and readings of publicly available films. Whilst labelling has a crucial and empowering role within the LGBTQ+ movement, it’s frustrating that so many critics stubbornly insist on branding films only ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’, with little examination of the rest of the spectrum in queer narratives. Sticking, for now, with our big-hitting examples above: in Brokeback Mountain, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Carol and Call Me By Your Name, the central characters have not only same-sex romantic and sexual relationships, but also heterosexual relationships. In each case the heterosexual relationships have, for various reasons, become unsatisfying, paling into insignificance when compared with their newfound love interests. Nonetheless, these relationships are often depicted as real, loving and sexual, are pivotal aspects of the characters’ emotional development, and it is rarely made clear that they broke down simply because the character’s previous partner was of the “wrong” gender identity. Critics and audiences alike often fail to recognise the possibility that individuals can be attracted to people rather than genders, and in a number of reviews for these films the heterosexual relationships aren’t so much as mentioned.
Call Me By Your Name is perhaps the best example of this. Hailed as a ‘gorgeous gay love story’, the film and its source material reveal a far more complex story of sexual awakening than is typically addressed. The differing relationships Elio has with Marzia and Oliver arguably has more to do with the fact that the latter is far more mature than the first, than it has to do with their genders. The original text is more explicit still about Elio’s sexual fluidity:
“How strange, I thought, how each shadowed and screened the other, without precluding the other. Barely half an hour ago I was asking Oliver to fuck me and now here I was about to make love to Marzia, and yet neither had anything to do with the other except through Elio, who happened to be one and the same person.”
That so few commentators have pointed to the significance of Elio’s multiple sexual relations is a wearisome reminder of the continuing elision of bi- and pan- sexuality within film criticism, and indeed in society. It should be unnecessary in the current context of sexual politics to focus so heavily on categories and labels of sexuality, but the fact that openly bisexual director Desiree Arkhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post) chose the somewhat ‘in-your-face’ title of The Bisexual for her recent Channel 4 series is telling of how often the liminal space between gay and straight is overlooked, as well as the on-going reticence in screen industries and elsewhere to use the terms bi- and pan-sexual.
It’s interesting, too, that the criticism levelled at more obviously bisexual films and series is that they lack clean structure. The Bisexual was smeared as ‘inconsistent’, while Arkhavan’s 2015 film Appropriate Behaviour, about an American-Iranian bisexual woman going through a break-up, was called ‘temporally disoriented’ and full of ‘clutter’. Israeli-born director Tom Shkolnik’s ‘The Comedian’ used radically long cuts of improv to tell the story of a stand-up comedian torn between a romantic but largely asexual relationship with his female flatmate and his affair with an openly gay painter. Though receiving increasingly more positive receptions since its release in 2012, the film’s early critics said it lacked ‘shaping’ and ‘form’, describing it as ‘non-committal’. Christophe Honore’s French-language musical ‘Les Chansons D’Amour’, used song to narrate the four-way love affairs between its sexually fluid central characters, but was shunned for its ‘randomness’ and lack of ‘coherence’. What critics seem to miss is that all three filmmakers use narrative techniques that resist the standard structure typically used for monosexual romance films precisely because that structural messiness is far better suited to capturing the non-linearity of polysexual relationships. Maria Pramaggiore summarises this phenomenon succinctly in her essay ‘Representing Bisexualities’. She refers to the ‘compulsory monosexuality’ of many Hollywood films, arguing that “conventional coupled romance narratives, whether concerned with gay, lesbian or heterosexual scenarios, make it difficult to recognise or to imagine bisexuality other than as a developmental stage prior to “mature” monogamous monosexuality”. She goes on to point out that:
“chronological narrative structures that assign more weight and import to the conclusion…may be less compatible with bisexual reading strategies, which focus on the episodic quality of a nonteleological temporal continuum across which a number of sexual acts, desire and identities might be expressed”.
Rather than criticising the tangled story-telling of the afore-mentioned films, then, we might praise the filmmakers for finding fitting methods of conveying what are inherently tangled narratives.
It’s in keeping with the topic of non-linearity that I’d like to finish by turning back to what is rapidly being recognised as a classic of the New Queer Wave at the end of the 20th century. In Todd Haynes’ 1998 glam-rock musical drama Velvet Goldmine, the film’s hallucinatory structure is as sprawling and fluid as its characters’ sexualities. Despite being a bit of a flop on its release, it’s been undergoing a critical renaissance over the past few years. I recently came across a review of the film that provides a rare and refreshing example of a critic engaging with the binary-breaking methodologies of the film, and of queer film theory itself:
“Velvet Goldmine is often called a gay film, but that obscures the universal resonance of its queer coming-of-age narrative. Better to think of it as a bisexual film that uses non-binary sexuality as a metaphor for the boundless possibilities of youth”.
Judy Berman’s assessment captures the whirling complexity of the film’s transgressive narrative and techniques, and is an exemplary contrast with the determinedly monosexual readings of more contemporary queer films. Many of the films listed in this article do, indeed, contain lesbian and gay relationships, and it’s important to use those terms to denote them. But, as film theorist Maria San Filippo astutely puts it, “human sexuality and desire are irreducible to and always already in excess of binary ways of thinking”. These films are lesbian, gay, and more. To collapse them into easily marketable boxes of sexuality is to diminish the work that they do in exploring liminal spaces between binaries. And as long as we continue to be mired by an attitude that someone is either ‘this’ or ‘that’, there’s little hope for greater progress in the representation of trans and non-binary people, too. No doubt the TEDDY Films of this year will continue to dismantle such barriers, as well as tackling the need for diversity and intersectionality within queer film. As an audience, let’s do credit to the complexity of their stories by bearing in mind Haynes’ cheeky intertitle in Velvet Goldmine:
“Meaning is not in things but in between them.” ― Norman O. Brown
New week, half way through the Festival, and more eager than ever to watch movies, isn’t that right Berlinale fans? Today we’ll have a powerful mix between the old and the new, and the varying problems they face, representing their respective times and cultures as well. Plus, we’ve got some binary-breaking documentary films, that challenge not only categories of gender and sexuality, but the boundaries of documentary itself. So don’t rub your eyes just yet, grab a cup of coffee and let’s go have a peek on what today’s schedule has in store for us!
An unsparing portrait of five young men in search of a sense of belonging and security, told in dreamlike but disturbing images. These are men who suspect that they will not survive their military service in the Soviet army.
A beautiful mosaic of the lives of multiple generations of a wealthy Chinese family. The film confronts suppressed desire, the social importance of marriage, and the frostiness that exists within the walls of the family home
Summer in Berlin. Two Berliners, Maria and Niels, and one British student, Chloë, are three twenty-somethings. Drifting libidinously through Berlin, they plunge headlong into a carefree and chaotic love affair with each other.
Politics. Culture. Passion. Survival – Solid words that could, although only partly, represent the themes of today’s queer films. With scenes that will have you on the edge of your seat and leave you wondering long after, even just by a glance, it could plant a seed of curiosity deep within us. Now it’s true that a movie can never be fully described by several sentences, moreover only words, it could however give us a crumble’s taste of these films. And what can provoke you more to watch a movie than the sensation of suspense, the eagerly growing desire to know more and experience the whole thing? Being aware of that, we wouldn’t want to starve you. Instead, as promised, we have prepared today’s movies’ teasers on a silver plate.
False Belief is the love story of a couple caught up in the gentrification of a neighborhood that is wiping out a seminal African-American cultural legacy and displacing its original residents. The film exposes a corrupt justice system that employs incarceration as a political and economic weapon.
The eventful life of renowned theatre director and anti-apartheid activist Cecil Williams, who emigrated to South Africa. With Corin Redgrave as Williams, Greta Schiller’s impressive film reminds us of this forgotten hero and won her the 1999 Teddy Award.
In this multilayered and achingly intimate cinematic essay a story of migration in its widest sense unfolds. Breaking taboos and challenging limitations, the film is a radical plunge into an emotionally moving river of life.
Tender and beguiling, The Blue Flower of Novalis invites you on an intimate journey with main protagonist Marcelo. Brace yourself for a performative and elusive ride with a passion that won’t leave you untouched.
Patagrande, Rambo, Leidi, Sueca, Pitufo, Lobo, Perro and Bum Bum. Eight stray teenagers, each bearing a code name, form a paramilitary squad on a remote hilltop. The film asks us what human nature becomes when released from authority.