Teddy Award 2006
Interview mit/with Wieland Speck (Page 6)
irrelevant whether the filmmakers themselves are gay or lesbian. It’s about the issues: How do gays and lesbians live their lives? How do they feel? What is the struggle? What are the politics? This can be seen most clearly in the early militant documentaries - there was anger and energy behind them. In the mid-Eighties AIDS became an issue. Here too there were angry films about the lack of political response. But they were also films that show how the social fabric of the gay family functions.
|Karl Johnson in Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein (1993) |
These were important sociological steps for gays. Among other things, they altered the way hospitals were run, to the benefit of everyone, because now hospitals have a totally different way of handling chronic illnesses. This was due to the fact that a minority wouldn’t allow itself to get sick and simply die out - something many on the political right would have liked to have seen happen, of course. Many filmmakers whose movies we showed and who won the Teddy died of AIDS, like Derek Jarman for example, but also Manfred Salzgeber himself.
Alongside these difficult, bitter issues, it became more and more about expressing joy for life. Historically, the Seventies were the first joyful phase for homosexuals. This joy was nearly extinguished by AIDS. The “overcoming” of AIDS through political activism, through social work, through artistic work, through medical progress, which partially had to be demanded by taking to the streets - all this led to the fact that joy is absolutely necessary again. This means that we once again have more entertaining films, mostly biting comedies. A market has developed which sees homosexuals as consumers, and of course this is reflected in the films. Now there are several film distributors that specialise in gay and lesbian film, others carry them in their programme as a matter of course. Here the situation has improved considerably.
Just recently, alarming figures were published on the spread of AIDS. AIDS has long since moved away from stigmatised high-risk groups and developed into a disease of the poor, which has taken on epidemic proportions in Africa.
And not just in Africa, but also in China and Russia. Gay political films were always aware that in the future AIDS would affect other parts of society. From “Act Up!” to the help organisations that exist today, the political stance was always: “Don’t look away, AIDS won’t be confined to risk groups for ever!” The responsibility that this minority has shown for others was exemplary and this also comes across in the films. Such films still exist today. There are less of them, though, because the immediate trauma of suffering has changed, since a fast-killing disease has become a
chronic one. But the political approach is basically the same and remains just as important.
What contribution does a film retrospective such as the Teddy Twenty Tribute make to this socio-political debate?
Homosexuals are different from other minorities because one doesn’t grow up as what one really is, but as something else. It’s very hard when you are raised with the assumption that you are heterosexual and then realise, during puberty, that you are not heterosexual. Since one only discovers this late, each generation thinks they invented it and fought for it themselves. Therefore it’s often very hard to see a historical connection - that one has a background, that there are “ancestors” and “pioneers”. To get this across and process it is very important in order to develop a political position and a vision for the future. That’s what the Teddy is about.
On the occasion of the anniversary, the “Queer Academy” will be launched this year: an Internet-based database in which all films which were nominated for a Teddy or won one will be documented - in the future all films set in a gay or lesbian context which have run at the Berlinale since 1980 will be included. In the long term, this will expanded beyond the Berlinale, because of course there are great films which aren’t shown at the Berlinale. Comprehensive materials related to the films will be available. With this we will support political as well as aesthetic film work worldwide. The Teddy Twenty Tribute will give us a thorough overview to help understand the history of gay-lesbian film. There we can see that nobody fell from the sky. Everywhere there is a societal context with differing moral codices and a different approach to them. It’s worth taking a closer look.
How extensive is this retrospective?
It will occupy 18 programming slots, 8 features, 8 documentaries and two slots with short film programmes. The Tribute is part of the Retrospective section, but the Panorama is supervising it, because most of the films ran with us. A broad alliance is contributing to the project. For example, Arte will be doing a thematic evening on 20 Years Teddy. What’s more, we’ll be creating “Teddy Tribute Travel Size”, a condensed programme that can travel around the world after the Berlinale. Part of this work is about encouraging cohesion.
Did you have problems finding copies, titles you wanted, which were simply no longer available?
Yes, there were several problems, simply because these films had to be made with the lowest possible budgets. It’s then that you see how films get old, because at some point there’s not even a single copy left. The fact is that archives often don’t do justice to these films. Here too, the basic attitude of society is reflected: Nobody notices if gays or lesbians aren’t involved in a representative activity. We also realised when we were obtaining copies that not only are many of the films no longer around, many of the filmmakers have actually died. Sometimes their heirs aren’t interested in the homosexual cause. On the contrary, gays and lesbians are often posthumously heterosexualised. Once you start researching these things, you open old wounds.
© Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin.