All posts by Hannah Congdon

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:

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: 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.


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.


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.


TEDDY TODAY: Saturday 17th February

It’s Day 3 of the Berlinale and where do we start with today’s vast selection?! For the classics-lovers out there, Rupert Everett’s ‘The Happy Prince’, detailing the final chapter of openly gay, British author Oscar Wilde’s life, is right up your street. But if you’re looking for something a bit more daring, today’s schedule contains some of the most radical and challenging films of the TEDDY 2018. ‘Shakedown’ is an almost entirely VHS-shot documentation of the eponymous black lesbian club-night, ‘Garbage’ sees the return of controversial Indian director Q in a film that drastically deconstructs masculinity, and the experimental short ‘Contra-Internet’ takes us into a dystopian, post-internet, post-sexual realm. If that’s not enough to satisfy you then there’s plenty more to float your boat in this action-packed timetable so get watching!

Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033

Director: Zach Blas

USA/Great Britain 2018 29′, English, Spanish

Akademie der Künste, 19:00

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Inspired by Derek Jarman’s 1978 queer punk film Jubilee, Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033 follows Ayn Rand and members of her Collective, including Alan Greenspan, on an acid trip in 1955. Casting Susanne Sachsse as Ayn Rand, Zach Blas stages a psychedelic fever dream that sees the philosopher and her hangers-on transported to a dystopian future Silicon Valley. As Apple, Facebook, and Google campuses burn, their guide, artificial intelligence Azuma, reveals that Ayn has become a celebrity philosopher to tech executives, as her writings foster their entrepreneurial spirit. Amidst the wreckage, Rand and The Collective are introduced to the Internet and bear witness to techies being captured by anti-campus groupies. Inside an occupied office park, the group encounters Nootropix, a contra-sexual, contra-internet prophet, who lectures on the end of the internet as we know it. Seeking respite, Rand and The Collective find themselves at Silicon Beach, where chunks of polycrystalline silicon mix with sand and ocean.


Director: Q
India 2018 105′, Hindi

CineStar 3, 20:15

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A young, seemingly mute woman has been fixed to the wall of an apartment with a long metal chain. She is being kept as a slave in the home of taxi driver Phanishwar, where she sleeps on a table and cooks for him. Phanishwar is a fervent supporter of the right-wing extremist guru ‘Baba’ and spreads his hatred in the commentary sections of social networks. One day he meets a young woman, Rami, who has had to go underground in Goa after a secretly filmed sex video in which she appeared went viral on the internet. He becomes her driver, whilst secretly stalking her online.
Indian director Q does not shy away from controversy, having already succeeded in inflaming passions with the dark tales in his feature film debut, Gandu. His stylishly shot revenge story Garbage revolves around two women who are exposed to different forms of oppression. Q initially takes time to develop the events, making some (queer) detours until eventually, things radically change. And when female martyrdom turns into retaliation, the director finds drastic images for the filmic deconstruction of (Indian) masculinity.

The Happy Prince

Director: Rupert Everett

Germany/Belgium/Italy 2017 105′, English, French, Italian

Friedrichstadt Palast, 21:00

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At the end of the 19th century, dandy Oscar Wilde is the darling of London society – witty, humorous and scandalous. However, his open homosexuality is too much for the times in which he lives and he is sent to prison. Impoverished and stricken by ill health at
the time of his release, he goes into exile in Paris. After a half-hearted attempt to reconcile with his wife, he resumes his relationship with the young Lord Douglas, which plunges him into total disaster. All he has left are his fanciful stories, with which he conquers the affection of two street boys. Supported by loyal friends who try to protect him from his own excesses, he manages to retain his charm and irony to the bitter end: ‘Either this hideous wallpaper goes – or I do …’ Written and directed by Rupert Everett, who also plays the leading role, this biopic focuses on the last years of the once celebrated and later disgraced writer. Flashbacks and associative dream images depict him as the eccentric bon vivant he was to remain throughout his life in a portrait that expands to become a panorama of the emerging modern era.

Hojoom (Invasion)

Director: Shahram Mokri

Iran 2017 102′, Farsi

Cinestar IMAX, 21:30

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Eternal darkness seems to shroud the stadium where men with bizarre tattoos pursue a sport that is never shown or named. A body has been found here, and the police have already identified a guilty party. Now the circumstances of the crime are to be reconstructed, so that the case can be quickly shelved. However, the real killer and his teammates want to use the reconstruction to commit another crime. The twin sister of the victim, who is said to be a vampire, is to be killed. But during the re-enactment of the murder, the players forget their role, chaos breaks out and the characters seem to be caught in an endless loop in which events repeat themselves in different ways. The disquieting feeling that time is dissolving, that past, present and future are becoming one and that history has
been halted is likely to strike a chord with how many young Iranians feel about their lives. Shahram Mokri’s intimate drama ominously interweaves place, space and time in the stadium’s labyrinthine corridors to form a dark allegory.

Je fais où tu me dis (Dressed for Pleasure)

Director: Marie de Maricourt

Switzerland 2017 17′, French

CinemaxX 3, 15:30

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Following on the heels of Lick Us, Meow, Meow! (Generation 2016) Marie de Maricourt’s back with another dazzling rebellion involving sexual identity. There’s no space for Sarah’s desires under her parents’ roof – the prevailing climate in the bourgeois household feels more constricting to the young woman than her wheelchair. With the aid of a furtive accomplice Sarah finds ways to transform her gloomy abode into a veritable pleasure dome.

Pop Rox

Director: Nate Trinrud

USA 2017 14′, English

CinemaxX 3. 15:30

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Jesse is creative and seldom at a loss for words. But how can she confess to her best friend that she is in love – with her, no less? Should she act it out with finger puppets? No, too silly. Write a love letter? Maybe. Or should she just tell her? With great compassion and a dash of irony, the film depicts the emotional world of a teenager in love and torn between fierce determination and fear of disappointment.


Director: Leilah Weinraub

USA 2018 82′, English

Zoo Palast 2, 22:00

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‘Shakedown’ was a series of parties founded by and for African American women in Los Angeles that featured go-go dancing and
strip shows for the city’s lesbian underground scene. Inspired by transwoman Mahogany who, as the mother of the scene, presided over queer strip shows and balls for non-heterosexual audiences in the 1980s, butch Ronnie Ron created, produced and presented the new shows. In them, the largely female clientele from the ‘hood’ slipped dollar notes into lap dancers’ panties while celebrating lesbian sexuality to pulsating hip-hop beats. Showing the protagonists backstage and in interviews, this intimate chronicle reveals that ‘Shakedown’ was more than just a strip club; as one of the few spaces for lesbian subculture, the club brought together and galvanised a community of freaks and queers of colour, and for that it suffered police reprisals. The film’s director is herself a member of this community; using exclusive archive material, posters and flyers, her film takes a personal look at female desire that is rarely presented on the big screen.

TEDDY TODAY: Thursday 15th February

Hello and welcome to the 32nd TEDDY AWARDS! We’ve got a feast of cinematic treats in store for you over the coming 10 days. From TEDDY veterans like Barbara Hammer and Gus Van Sant, to first-time directors from all over the world, the 2018 films bring the diversity and innovation that characterise the award. Look out for the prominent themes of body politics, intersectionality and the celebration of sensuality, to name just a few.

In our TEDDY TODAY posts we’ll be taking you by the hand through the queer world of the Berlinale, keeping you up to date with what to watch, when and where. Kicking things off is the Panorama opener, ‘River’s Edge’. This stunning feature from Japanese director Isao Yukisada begins, fittingly, with a shot of a girl clutching her childhood teddy bear. The scene is a flash forward towards which the rest of the sprawling narrative flows, winding it’s way through the lives of a group of teenagers. Prepare yourselves for bold, unflinching  depictions of the sexual and psychological secrets that torment the younger generations of today…

River’s Edge

Director: Isao Yukisada

Japan 2018 118′, Japanese

CinemaxX 7, 21:00

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Tokyo, 1994. In a video interview a young woman discusses the significance of a teddy bear. Shortly afterwards, a burning object falls from a high-rise building at night. A young man, naked and bound, falls out of a locker. Two fisherman talk about a water spirit. In his unusual drama River’s Edge Isao Yukisada lays many trails and jumps as abruptly and unpredictably between the various narrative threads as do his characters: Ichiro is gay; he is preyed upon by his violent fellow pupils but seems to draw strength from his injuries. He makes a gruesome discovery at a nearby river polluted by industrial waste and shows it to his best friend, a girl named Haruna. Kannonzaki loves rough sex and in the course of it transgresses more and more boundaries. An introverted girl obsessively reads her pregnant sister’s diaries and Kozue, a model with bulimia, buries herself in mountains of food at night. All these and other stories are brilliantly interwoven into a breathless social portrait of a driven but apparently lost generation and their seemingly unavoidable encounters with violence.

In conversation with Mahmoud Hassino

“I don’t see myself as a gay refugee”

These are the words Mahmoud Hassino casually remarks just minutes into our conversation. Oscar and I look quizzical: this is the man who’s made a name for himself by founding the first gay Syrian blog Mawaleh, starring in the documentary Mr Gay Syria, and fighting tirelessly for LGBT and refugee rights. How is it, then, that he can so easily shed the term ‘gay’ when that forms such a significant basis for the activism upon which his right to asylum rests? The answer is that this is not a denial of gay identity, but an empowered decision choose one’s own labels, rather than have them imposed: “homosexuality is just some thing, some part of my identity… we have many ways of introducing ourselves; I can say a journalist or blogger or writer. Sometimes you choose something that is more necessary.” Continue reading In conversation with Mahmoud Hassino