TEDDY TODAY: Thursday 22nd February

My oh my how time is flying – we’ve hit Thursday and are drawing near the final weekend of the Berlinale. But fear not, there’s still more premiers to catch, plus HEAPS of films to catch up on so stay tuned!

Today’s films, separated by over 80 years, look at mental health and the physical body. In both ‘Ludwig der Zweite’ and ‘Touch Me Not’, the confusions of the mind and body are analysed. Where Ludwig falls victim to psychological disarray in the first film, in the latter we see a more positive working through of the human psychology. A sign of the times, perhaps?

Ludwig der Zweite, König von Bayern (Ludwig II of Bavaria)
Director: Wilhelm Dieterle
Germany, 1930, 132′, German intertitles

Screening: 19.00, CinemaxX 8

In the last years of his life, Bavarian king Ludwig II (1845 – 1886) devotes himself to ambitious architectural projects, which strain the state coffers to the extreme. The monarch, who is afraid of people, also withdraws more and more into a dream world at his various castles. His brother is already in a psychiatric institute and Ludwig is also eventually put under the care of psychiatrist Bernhard von Gudden. The king attempted to get out from under this guardianship at Starnberg lake … “If the upper echelons don’t like you, you must go …” Taking a down to earth point of view, this story of the “fairy tale king” depicts the descent of a broken character into mental breakdown. In Wilhelm Dieterle’s interpretation, fawning courtiers and officials, the heir apparent, and the medical profession all contributed to hastening the collapse. So the dispassionate film, which did not hide Ludwig’s fascination with the naked male body, drew intense criticism from Bavaria. When Berlin’s censorship board refused to intervene, Munich’s police commissioner imposed a ban on showing it on the grounds that it was “a danger to the public order.”

Touch Me Not
Director: Adina Pintilie
Romania/Germany/Czech Republic/Bulgaria/France, 2018, 125′, English, German

Screening: 22.00, Berlinale Palast

Laura cannot bear to be touched and recoils whenever anyone catches hold of her or takes her hand. She goes to see a therapist,
and orders a male prostitute, but her body is still like an armour. In a loose succession of scenes, we follow other people in search
of intimacy. Christian, who has to live with many physical impairments, talks candidly about what turns him on, what turns him off and his love life with his long-standing girlfriend. The couple participate in a workshop on body awareness attended by people of all ages, with and without disabilities, such as Tudor. His bald head makes him seem strangely vulnerable and he has yet to discover and accept the manifold forms of his desire. The cool images and laboratory-like atmosphere of this film help the viewer to jettison their own preconceived opinions and ideas of intimacy, as it takes us on an emotional expedition to illuminate the many different facets of sexuality beyond all taboos. Each scene develops its own sense of truthfulness, regardless of whether the situations have been staged or present documentary footage.

TEDDY TODAY: Wednesday 21st February

It’s a day for the daring, with the premiers of a number of high-profile experimental filmmakers. Jerry Tartaglia looks back at the work of Jack Smith in ‘Escape From Rented Island’, Irene Lusztig overlaps the voices of female letter writers in the 70s with those of present-day women in ‘Yours in Sisterhood’, and Barbara Hammer uses moving translucent images of the body imposed on film reels to explore the body’s cycles of life and death in ‘Evidentiary Bodies’. Each director here examines the need for archiving, questioning the ways we document, and keep visible, communities that have previously been shunned to the shadows of history.

The TEDDY AWARD is itself involved in the preservation of queer cultural memory through its partnership with the Queer Academy. Delve into the history of LGBT cinema by checking out the website here: https://queeracademy.net

Happy Wednesday Watching!

Escape From Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith

Director: Jerry Tartaglia

Akademie der Künste, 21:30

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In his essay film, Jerry Tartaglia, longtime archivist and restorer of the film estate of queer New York underground, experimental film, and performance legend Jack Smith, deals less with Smith’s life than with his work, analyzing Smith’s aesthetic idiosyncrasies in 21 thematic chapters. “Escape From Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith is a film essay about the artist’s work, rather than a documentary about his life. Therefore, it does not present a rational, linear, and detached explanation of his work. Instead, it asks the viewer to sympathetically experience the aesthetic choices behind the work of Jack Smith. This strategy that I have chosen creates a challenge for the viewer, particularly those who are reliant upon external commentary or non-diegetic material in the documentary film form; I have no apology to offer those who cannot bear the unmediated vision of Jack Smith; only an invitation to join him in his lost paradise.”

Evidentiary Bodies

Director: Barbara Hammer
USA 2018, 10′, Without dialogue

Kino Arsenal 1, 15:00

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A life lived within the sprocket holes of film can still dance. The beauty of the human body, although maimed, dances forward. Hope does not live eternal but daily. An audience immersed in three screens to feel the encasement of illness, the isolation of the material body. The forever ongoing chain of film runs but cannot hold up the protagonist. Time is flexible as the body transforms and the film loops. A trilogy of the self, witness of decline and suffering, performing the unthinkable, inevitable, dance of death. Three surrounds, enfolds, embraces the one who cannot stand alone. We, as human beings on a small globe, united by evolutionary structure and biological DNA have a chance to come together through the experience of empathy and identification with the sensitive body. An unspoken plea for viewers to engage with compassion, to experience vulnerability, to know through evidence this body is their body.

Tuzdan kaide (The Pillar of Salt)

Director: Burak Çevik
Turkey 2018 70′, Turkish

CineStar 8, 16:30

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A pregnant young woman who lives in a sort of cave is looking for her vanished sister, yet this plot summary hardly does justice to
the charm, richness and radical nature of Burak Çevik’s first feature – all of which a result of the liberties he takes in creating an extravagant cinematic world to tell this story. The protagonist leaves her almost fairytale-like cave to set out across a river, taking up her sister’s trail. This trail leads her to a botanical garden, a bird shop, and a darkroom. The photo lab technician compares the effect of photographs to God turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt because she couldn’t resist the temptation of turning around to see Sodom be destroyed. Captured for eternity, transfixed for eternity – should we take it at face value when the protagonist tells the boatwoman that she is a part-time vampire? The dreamlike way in which the film digresses to show us a plant, a strip of negatives, or a table tennis match contributes considerably to the strange fascination it develops. Some things remain mysterious – which only makes us even more curious about what they might be referring to.

Yours in Sisterhood

Director: Irene Lusztig
USA 2018 101′, English

Delphi Filmpalast, 18:45

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A petrol station at an Atlanta intersection. A private estate in Bowling Green, Kentucky, complete with a perfect lawn. The front yard of a family home in Connecticut. At first glance, the places Irene Lusztig chose to visit on her two-year journey through the United States seem unremarkable. At each stop, Lusztig had local women read out and comment on letters from the archive of liberal feminist magazine “Ms.”. These letters were originally sent around 40 years ago in response to articles in the magazine, serving also as outlets for their writers, mainly women, to share their personal stories – with intimacy and candour, at times full of relief, at other rage. The letters recount experiences of abortions or lesbian affairs with married women and rail against the magazine’s ignorance of what real life meant for black women. Irene Lusztig’s documentary set-up succeeds in bringing a wealth of experiences from an earlier generation of the feminist movement into a complex dialogue with the present. The written word only appears to be at the fore, beyond it, there lies a whole universe of feminism for the viewer to discover, which Yours in Sisterhood makes accessible on many levels.

TEDDY TODAY: Tuesday 20th February

Ohhhhhhhh! We’re halfway there! And if you’re caffeine levels aren’t through the roof, there aren’t bags the size of bruises under your eyes, and you’ve avoided that desperate late-night trip to McDonalds then you’re doing something wrong. For the rest of you hard-core troopers, in the words of the wonderful Bon Jovi, “take my hand, we’ll make it I swear”. There’s still plenty more to enjoy, including the highlight of today, Gus Van Sant’s latest job, ‘Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot’. Have a look at our YouTube channel to hear the man himself discussing the film, and his relationship with the TEDDY AWARD.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Director: Gus Van Sant
USA, 2018, 113′, English

Screening: 19.00, Berlinale Palast

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John has a penchant for off-colour jokes – and a drinking problem. And so, when somebody he met at a party suggests they go on an all-night bender in L.A. he simply can’t refuse. But after falling asleep in a drunken stupor on his drinking buddy’s passenger seat, he wakes up the next morning in hospital, a quadriplegic. Confined to a wheelchair for life at the age of 21, he now requires every last drop of his sense of humour to rediscover meaning in his existence. He is aided by Annu who brings back his lust for life, as well as Donny, a hippie whose unconventional Alcoholics Anonymous meetings draw together people from all walks of life and help them see things from a whole new perspective. John discovers beauty and humour in the depths of human experience and uses his artistic talent to turn these discoveries into brilliantly observed cartoons. Gus Van Sant’s biopic is based on the memoirs of cartoonist John Callahan. This is a tender, melancholy yet hope-filled and life-affirming fictionalised portrait of a life of limitations. As in many of his films, here too Van Sant addresses the search for identity in the environs of social subcultures and unusual milieus.

High Fantasy
Director: Jenna Bass
South Africa, 2017, 74′, English

Screening: 17.30, Haus der Kulturen der Welt

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‘I’m not trying to escape who I am. This is it, I was born in this body and I can’t escape it, no. Am I angry at what it is? Yes.’ An innocuous idea, since you can assume it would never actually happen: finding yourself in someone else’s body. Yet that is exactly what befalls Lexi and her friends during a camping trip. The shock is immense, especially given the friction that had already existed before the inexplicable event: not only between the three young women and Thami, the only man – but also between Lexi, who is white, and Xoli, who is black. Under the body swapping spell, conflicts erupt that are symptomatic of social upheaval in the South African rainbow nation. Captured with the protagonists’ smartphones, what unfolds is a shrewd and cutting essay on the politics of the body, decades after the end of apartheid.

Pasolini
Director: Abel Ferrara
France/Italy/Belgium, 2014, 84′, English, Italian, French

Screening: 21.30, CinemaxX 8

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There are no indications that it will be the last day in the life of Italian writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini. As usual, he spends the morning of November 2, 1975 with his mother, before reading the newspaper and working on a screenplay. Actress Laura Betti comes by for lunch. That afternoon at home, Pasolini meets yet another journalist for an interview about his “scandalous” film Saló, o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom). In the evening, he has dinner with friends at a restaurant, then drives his Alfa Romeo to the local gay pick-up strip, where 17-year-old Pino Pelosi gets into the director’s car. The two drive to the beach at Ostia, where a group of young men appear out of the darkness … The linear biopic narrative is interspersed with scenes shot based on Pasolini’s final screenplay. Among other things, those film snippets show veteran Pasolini actor Ninetto Davoli visiting an alleged “homosexual paradise”. In contrast to Davoli’s exuberant comic mien, Willem Dafoe plays the director as a contemplative person. Enriched with many original Pasolini quotes, his intense portrayal gives us a hint of what might have been …

TEDDY TODAY: Monday 19th February

There aren’t many people who live their lives without at least a few mummy or daddy issues – they’re almost a rite of passage. And that’s our theme of the day, with many of today’s films examining the tangled and complex relationships we have with our parents. But brace yourselves, these are not your average stories of family squabbles; in these films we realise the extreme and damaging effects of families in disarray. In ‘Game Girls’ we see women forced onto the street by abusive parents, ‘Marilyn’ reveals the devastating consequences of repressed desire and familial rejection, ‘Retablo’ sees a young boy coming to terms with his father’s sexuality, and ‘The Silk and the Flame’ exposes the crippling repression inflicted by Chinese family expectations.

Game Girls

Director: Alina Skrzeszewska

France/Germany 2018 90′, English

CineStar 7, 17:00

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Skid Row in Los Angeles is the infamous ‘homeless capital’ of the USA. Anyone who is trying to learn the rules of the game and survive here has a really tough time, as the stories of the two protagonists of this film, Teri and Tiahna, reveal. Life for this lesbian couple is
a constant round of prison, alcoholism and drug peddling, but there is hope, too. Their biographies are typical for the lives of Afro- American women living on the edge of American society. During a workshop initiated by the filmmaker for women in this community, they address their memories and their traumas and embark on a process of transformation during which they come into view as self- determining subjects rather than as victims. Social protests against homelessness in the neighbourhood, or the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign are just as much a part of their lives as is the matter-of-fact way in which they choose to live as lesbians, or their bitter struggle with the authorities for their own four walls. The film’s intimate, observational camerawork helps tell the story of two women who manage to escape Skid Row but who are nonetheless bound by the constraints of their environment.

Marilyn

Director: Martín Rodríguez Redondo

Argentina/Chile 2018 80′, Spanish

CinemaxX 7, 20:00

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There’s not much going on in this part of rural Argentina where a shy young man named Marcos lives with his family. Theirs is a modest existence, where gender roles are clearly demarcated. The hot summer doesn’t make life any easier, but money needs to be earned and the herd of cattle must be kept together. Marcos manages to carve out little islands of freedom during his routine; in these moments he likes to put make-up on his childlike face or slip into colourful dresses behind closed doors. Carnival is just around the corner; this year’s event will change Marcos’ life as dramatically as the family’s unexpected relocation. Martín Rodríguez Redondo’s cinematic debut is a tender portrait of youth and initially repressed self-discovery, told with serene understatement, devoid of guiding music. The roar of motorbikes promises both freedom and danger and, although there appears to be no escape from this world, the situation is far from hopeless for at some point young Federico appears on the scene. The images are contemplative and the narrative linear, yet the course taken by the film’s seemingly predictable trajectory is nonetheless surprising. A story based on true events.

Retablo

Director: Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio L.

Peru/Germany/Norway 2017 101′, Quechua, Spanish

Zoo Palast 1, 15:30

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‘Are you not happy working with him?’ · ‘I want to see other things. You will get lost out there.’ · ‘Why can the others go and I can’t?’ · ‘Because you are an artisan not a peasant.’ Segundo sees silence as his only option for dealing with his father Noé’s secret. The 14-year-old lives with his parents in a village high up in the mountains of Peru. Noé is a respected artisan and Segundo’s role model. With loving eye for detail, he artfully crafts altarpieces for church and homes, and is preparing his son to follow in his footsteps. But cracks form in their tight bond. The film takes an unflinching look behind the facades of a seemingly intact village community, in which patriarchal rules are imposed with unrelenting violence. In saturated colours, a panorama view of a world in which a young artist is finding his place.

The Silk and the Flame

Director: Jordan Schiele

USA 2018
87′, Mandarin, English

CineStar 7, 17:00

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Unmarried Yao travels from Beijing to his village to celebrate the Chinese New Year – the most important family event in the country. The money he earns in the big city provides not only for his old parents but also his siblings and their children, who take it for granted that they should live off his regular payments as well. His mother, who has been deaf since childhood, looks after his care-dependent father. The latter desperately wants to see his second son married to the right woman, but Yao himself would prefer to find the right man. He has done well in the capital and his outstanding achievements have earned his father’s respect but, ever the dutiful son, he finds himself putting aside his own needs in order to support the family’s continued demands. A touching insight into everyday life in China, where the economic boom of the cities is in stark contrast to the poverty experienced by those living in the countryside. Jordan Schiele depicts the sparseness of village life in timeless black-and-white, juxtaposing loud, chaotic family scenes with Yao’s reflective monologues.