2019 marks the 40th anniversary edition of the Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival, and the festival will present a special program from its 40-year history.
The first year of the section under then legendary cinema runner and Forum co-founder Manfred Salzgeber as section head, not only presented works by filmmakers such as Catherine Breillat, John Waters, Atıf Yılmaz, Miklós Jancsó and Helma Sanders-Brahms, but also gave viewers a sense of the section’s future profile with regards to films from Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America, and to the future focus on gay and lesbian cinema.
Queer cinema, or gender focus – since both feminist principles and trans* themes have been part of the section since its inception – was shocking and unheard of in the festival world of that time. In Salzgeber’s second year as head of the section, he selected a short film by Wieland Speck. The ensuing collaboration by the two curators, which also led to the birth of the TEDDY AWARD – the queer film award at the Berlinale – lasted past Wieland Speck’s taking on of the Panorama leadership, starting in 1992, until Manfred Salzgeber’s untimely death of AIDS in 1994.
The annual selections in the years that followed also highlighted themes such as: Countries in focus, international freedom movements, the joy of experiments in aesthetics, the discovery of now well-known filmmakers and thematic impressions, the subject of AIDS as a battle cry in filmmaking, and last but not least, the short format as a tireless breeding ground for talent.
Wieland Speck, who curated and shaped Panorama from 1993 – 2017, and his long-standing colleague Andreas Struck have selected nine fiction films and three essay documentaries from a catalogue of more than 1,800 works, as well as eleven short films from a catalogue of over 600 for the Panorama 40 program.
The 40th anniversary reflection programme and its themes:
Panorama First Move
In February of 1986, star director Lasse Hallström – then relatively unknown outside of Sweden – gained worldwide recognition with the premiere of Mitt liv som hund (My Life as a Dog) at Panorama. Hallström returned to Panorama in 1994 with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and later presented two films in Competition – Chocolat in 2001 and The Shipping News in 2002. The other two directors in this grouping have similar stories: Tsai Ming-liang returned to Competition and Panorama multiple times after his furious debut Ching shao nien na cha(Rebels of the Neon God, 1992), and Ulrich Köhler’s celebrated first feature Bungalow (2002) paved the way for Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness) in the 2011 Competition. These three films – in which young rebels struggle for self-determination within the normative bevy of societal expectations – stand for a large catalogue of early works by directing masters of the current day that Manfred Salzgeber and Wieland Speck discovered for an international audience. The list includes Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant, Pedro Almodóvar, Małgorzata Szumowska, Kim Ki-duk, Daniel Burman and Teona Strugar Mitevska, to name just a few.
With Lady Chatterley in 2007, the French director Pascale Ferran succeeded in creating a simultaneously sober and sensitive study on blossoming female sexuality, filled with happiness, liberated from shame, independent of social class distinction. The first film adaptation of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by a female director focuses on D. H. Lawrence’s protagonist and her tempestuous departure from the constraints of Victorian domesticity.
After World War II, when Tom of Finland began drawing his intimate fantasies, he had no way of knowing that he was creating what would become a world-famous oeuvre of subcultural icons that, to this day, continues inspiring gay men to align their appearance with their own identity. Ilppo Pohjola’s essay documentary Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1991) is the only film ever made with the influential artist.
The Battle for Freedom
Stalwart action against human rights abuses, the battle against oppression, and the search for freedom form a common theme in all Panorama programs. Four seldom-seen films were selected to represent that theme: To organize armed resistance against the apartheid regime in the early 1960s, Nelson Mandela travelled through the country incognito as the chauffeur of a renowned theatre director. The man was Cecil Williams, a dedicated freedom fighter, played by Corin Redgrave in The Man Who Drove With Mandela (1998), Greta Schiller’s memorial to this forgotten hero.
In Russia, homosexuality is still taboo. Stirringly, and with brutal honesty, Russian director Khusein Erkenov tells the story of five young men who don’t survive military service in the Soviet Army in Sto dnei do prikaza (100 Days Before the Command, 1990).
The Making of Monsters (1990) by John Greyson is an experimental musical with a Brecht-like strategy. The enfant terrible of Canadian cinema engages in an aggressive analysis of the murder of Kenneth Zeller, a gay teacher, at the hands of five teenage boys in 1985 in Toronto’s High Park.
In his second short film Das Geräusch rascher Erlösung (The Sound of Fast Relief, 1982), Wieland Speck focuses on what dictated his work as a curator for decades: Courage and imagination as a political opportunity to develop space for alternatives in a heterosexualised world. In one dreamer’s adventures, he divests patriarchal attacks of their stability, causing them to miss their mark.
In 1992, film pioneer Monika Treut completed what was likely the first portrait of a transgender man in the history of cinema. Maxis the story of a journey to another sex, of experiences with the male sex hormone testosterone, and of hostility within one’s own community.
That same year, Split – William to Chrysis; Portrait of a Drag Queen was completed by Ellen Fisher Turk and Andrew Weeks: an homage to the charismatic underground star International Chrysis (1951 – 1990), whose strong will united female and male in one body – in the pursuit of absolute harmony.
Obscure Film Worlds
Inexhaustible inventiveness, progressive joy in experimentation, and confidence in unfamiliar aesthetic forms – the film artists in Panorama produce impressive cinematographic innovations. In 2014, the then 21-year-old Chinese director Zhou Hao delivered the unexpected with his magical debut YE (The Night). With steady style and in idiosyncratic, mysterious takes, he depicts three outsiders who negotiate intimacy and play with their feelings beyond the confines of society and gender.
Pirjo Honkasalo was the first woman in Finland to work as director of photography on a feature film. In her exceptional directorial work Mysterion, she taps into the parallel dimension of extreme human experiences: Filmed in 1991, the film’s speechlessness-drenched images tell the story of daily convent life for 160 orthodox nuns who worship earth, water and air in their prayers, while the people in the neighboring Kohtla-Järve mines subject nature to their will.
Another Finnish selection is Claes Olsson’s short music video M.A. Numminen Sings Wittgenstein (1993): A thought by the eminent philosopher becomes part of a subversive game with audience expectations.
Rather than play with expectations, Jonathan Reiss demolishes them in A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief (1988), a science fiction film that visionarily exposes the depths of machine psychology. Anthropomorphic robots perform in nightmarish subjugation scenarios.
Equally visionary are the surreal imaginings of Gariné Torossian in Girl from Moush (1993). A perceptive, cubistically assembled collage of myths and oral traditions leads to the Canadian filmmaker’s subconscious Armenia.
Film historian Jenni Olson displays incomparable form in Blue Diary (1997), skilfully bringing imagery and language into dialogue to chronicle a one-night stand.
AIDS – Film as a Weapon
In times of newly developed prevention measures, the battle against AIDS is not yet won. The conflict with this illness and its serious consequences has been one of Panorama’s significant concerns from the start. In 1985, during the AIDS crisis’ most devastating time, Arthur J. Bressan Jr. made Buddies, one of the very first films on the subject. The story of the friendship between an AIDS patient and a volunteer was the director’s last film. In the summer of 1987, he died from complications due to the immune disorder which is still rampant today. 33 years after its making, the founding film of Edition Salzgeber will be shown in a restored digital version.
Fear of Disclosure (1989) by Phil Zwickler and David Wojnarowicz is the first film that deals with the difficulties of relationships between HIV positive and HIV negative men. With feverish restlessness, video images zero in on the corrosion of lust by abandonment issues. The film is complemented by the documentary Self-Portrait in 23 Rounds: a Chapter in David Wojnarowicz’s Life 1989-1991 by Marion Scemama. In her film essay, the French photographer and filmmaker reveals never-seen-before material from David Wojnarowicz’s private archive and in collaboration with the KW Institute for Contemporary Art / KUNST-WERKE, refers to the exhibition “David Wojnarowicz: Photography & Film 1978 – 1992”.
Another exhibition in the KW Institute on the subject of AIDS is dedicated to Frank Wagner, the long-standing curator of The New Society for Visual Arts (nGbK): “TIES, TALES AND TRACES. Dedicated to Frank Wagner, Independent Curator (1958 – 2016)”. In 1986, Wagner presented the first large art exhibition on AIDS in Berlin – and in collaboration with Panorama. The exhibitions will take place parallel to the Berlinale and until May 5, 2019.
In the 1990s, gay sexuality was widely directly linked with AIDS. In 1992, Cyril Collard directed his fiction film debut Les nuits fauves (Savage Nights) – based on his eponymous novel – in which he plays a HIV positive bisexual man who plunges himself into the emotional roller coaster of a three-way relationship. He was one of the first artists in France to publicly disclose his infection with HIV. He died of the immune deficiency just one year after completing his film, at age 35.
One rare testimonial of the German ACT UP movement is Jochen Hick’s short film Willkommen im Dom (Welcome to the Dome): A spectacular protest against HIV and AIDS discrimination by the Catholic Church during the German Bishops’ Conference in Fulda in 1991.
The Attendant was made two years later amidst Thatcherism and the AIDS crisis. In artistic, scenic tableaus, British video art star Isaac Julien links Imperialism and queer lust, looking at sexual and racist power dynamics in a cultural and historical light.
Jean Genet Is Dead (1987) also deals with the consequences of AIDS. Constantine Giannaris cross-fades Super 8 shots of isolated men over reflections by the legendary poet, creating visually powerful associations between lust, ostracism and deadly health threat. Giannaris is a two-time TEDDY AWARD winner and presented Dekapentavgoustos (One Day in August) in Competition in 2002.
by Arthur J. Bressan Jr.
with Geoff Edholm, David Schachter
81 min 2D DCP
by Ulrich Köhler
with Lennie Burmeister, Devid Striesow, Trine Dyrholm
85 min 2D DCP
Ching shao nien na cha (Rebels of the Neon God)
by Tsai Ming-liang
with Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng, Wang Yu-wen, Jen Chang-pin
106 min, 2D DCP
Daddy and the Muscle Academy
by Ilppo Pohjola
with Tom of Finland
55 min, 2D DCP
France / Belgium 2006
by Pascale Ferran
with Marina Hands, Jean-Louis Coulloc’h
158 min, 35mm
The Man Who Drove With Mandela
United Kingdom / South Africa / USA / Netherlands 1998
by Greta Schiller
with Corin Redgrave
80 min, 2D DCP
Mitt liv som hund (My Life as a Dog)
by Lasse Hallström
with Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman, Kicki Rundgren
101 min, 35mm
by Pirjo Honkasalo
95 min, 2D DCP
Les nuits fauves (Savage Nights)
France / Italy 1992
by Cyril Collard
with Cyril Collard, Romane Bohringer, Carlos López
126 min, 35mm
Self-Portrait in 23 Rounds: a Chapter in David Wojnarowicz’s Life, 1989–1991
by Marion Scemama
with David Wojnarowicz
78 min, QuickTime ProRes
Split – William to Chrysis; Portrait of a Drag Queen
by Ellen Fisher Turk, Andrew Weeks
with International Chrysis
58 min, Betacam SP
Sto dnei do prikaza (100 Days Before the Command)
Russian Federation 1990
by Khusein Erkenov
with Armen Daigarhanian, Lena Kondulainen, Aleksandr Chislov
67 min, 2D DCP
YE (The Night)
People’s Republic of China 2014
by Zhou Hao
with Zhou Hao, Liu Xiao Xiao, Li Jin Kang
95 min, 2D DCP
Panorama 40 Short Films
United Kingdom 1993
by Isaac Julien
with Thomas Baptiste, Cleo Sylvestre, John Wilson
8 min, 35mm
A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief
by Jonathan Reiss
13 min, 2D DCP
by Jenni Olson
6 min, 2D DCP
Fear of Disclosure
by Phil Zwickler, David Wojnarowicz
5 min, 16mm
Das Geräusch rascher Erlösung (The Sound of Fast Relief)
by Wieland Speck
with Reiner Hirsekorn, Andreas Bernhardt, Kurt Hübner, Zazie de Paris
28 min, 2D DCP
Girl from Moush
by Gariné Torossian
5 min, QuickTime ProRes
Jean Genet Is Dead
United Kingdom 1987
by Constantine Giannaris
with Steve Maclean, Giannis Giannaris, Rafael Peña Cruz, Didier Lestrade
37 min, 16mm
The Making of Monsters
by John Greyson
with Ray Kahnert, David Gardner, Taborah Johnson, Lee MacDougal
35 min, 2D DCP
M. A. Numminen Sings Wittgenstein
by Claes Olsson
with Mauri Antero Numminen, Pedro Hietanen
1 min, 2D DCP
by Monika Treut
with Max Wolf Valerio
27 min, 2D DCP
Willkommen im Dom (Welcome to the Dome)
by Jochen Hick
14 min, 2D DCP