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Chasing Teddy: Gay & Lesbian Film at The 1998 Berlin Film Festival

Chasing Teddy: Gay & Lesbian Film at The 1998 Berlin Film Festival

Chasing Teddy: Gay & Lesbian Film at The 1998 Berlin Film Festival

by Rajendra Roy

[Rajendra Roy, Director of the MIX: The New York Lesbian & Gay
Experimental Film/Video Festival was a member jury for the 1998 TEDDY Awards
at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. In today’s issue Roy offers a personal
perspective on Gay & Lesbian films at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival. ]

As the glamour and prestige of the Berlin International Filmfestspiele
(Berlinale) appears to be fading (there are no beaches or ski slopes in
Berlin), the TEDDY Award is poised to overtake the Golden Bear as the
most coveted and influential statue in Berlin. The 12th TEDDY Awards
Gala, held on February 21st, was the largest single event at the 48th
annual Berlinale, and with dozens of Gay & Lesbian themed films
competing for the only officially sanctioned Gay & Lesbian Film prize at
an “A List” Festival (i.e. Cannes, Venice, Sundance), Berlin has become
one of the most important events for international G & L film
programmers. For example, over 50 festival directors and programmers
from around the world gathered at the home of legendary German
filmmaker, Rosa von Praunheim to discuss G & L cinema.

G & L films are included in all areas of the official program
(Competition, Panorama, Forum [well maybe not the Kinder-Fest]), and the
TEDDYS can be awarded to any of these films. Thanks to the diligence of
Panorama director, Wieland Speck, most of the eligible films were found
in that section of the festival. This section traditionally showcases
the most vibrant new films in the world, leading to a selection of the
best G &L work. Due to a disturbing trend by distributors pulling their
recently purchased films out of confirmed film festival screenings in
favor of market-friendly re-edits, many of the expected titles at Berlin
(G & L and otherwise) were no-shows.

The buzz after the TEDDY Awards were handed out centered mostly around
Asian films, with the TEDDY for Best Film going to openly gay director
Stanley Kwan for his first gay themed feature “Yue Kuai Le, Yue Duo Luo
(“Hold You Tight“), which was included in the International
Competition. Word is that it may be the last gay themed Hong Kong
feature if China has its way, but judging from the star power in
attendance for the TEDDYS (Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Chingmy Yau), the
Hong Kong film industry appears ready to put up a fight. “Hold You
Tight” also won a Silver Bear in the Main Competition. The Special
TEDDY Jury Prize went to “Ang Lalaki Sa Buhay Ni Selya” (“The Man in Her
“), a ground-breaking Filipino film by Carlos Siguion-Reyna from the
Panorama section. A refreshing departure from the quasi-exploitative
Macho Dancer” films, this intelligent movie has been censored by the
Philippine government which left its tender gay love scene on the
cutting room floor. The uncut version was shown in Berlin, and armed
with a TEDDY, the filmmaker hopes to screen this version to a Filipino

The Brandon Teena Story” by Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir won both
an audience award and the TEDDY for Best Documentary. The carefully
studied and warmly related film brought the worlds of transgendered life
and rural homophobia and bigotry in the US to enraptured international
audiences. Muska and Olafsdottir’s work is especially commendable,
considering the plethora of sloppy, self-absorbed, un-studied dribble
that passed for documentary filmmaking (Jochen Hick’s “Sex/Life L.A.” &
Peter Kern’s “Kiss Cuddle Celebrate” being the worst). The TEDDY for
Best Short went to Isabel Hegner’s crisp and flirtatious “Peppermills“,
which delivers a sneak peak at Kate Walsch, an actor destined to be the
new Deneuve.

There were a few standouts among the other TEDDY-eligible films. Brian
Sloan’s “I Think I Do“, which has already made the G&L festival rounds
in the US, was a clear crowd pleaser in Berlin, and may well have a
market life in Europe. “TABU V” by the infamous Michael Brynntrup won
the Panorama Audience Award, (which includes a fellowship at the New
York Film Academy). Berlin standard John Greyson wowed the TEDDY jury
with his smart and quirky film “Uncut“. Jenni Olson’s “Blue Diary
proved once again even a rowdy bunch of lesbians waiting for the sexy
girls shorts are no match for gorgeous experimental filmmaking. And
lastly, my personal favorite, “The Assmachine Enterprise” by Mara
Mattuschka and Gabriele Szekatsch about two hyper, smart,
lesbians-from-Vienna-gone-mad who discover the key to harnessing the
power of the ass.

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