Wed, Feb 14
TEDDY goes to Hollywood
Guest Column by Kimberly Yutani
My column today should actually be called Hollywood Comes to TEDDY as I share my experiences and observations of this year’s Berlinale. Last year I was a member of the TEDDY Jury, and I’m honored to be one of the TEDDY guest columnists this year (and even prouder to be considered a member of the TEDDY family).
It’s day 6 of the festival and to be honest, it’s feeling more like day 60. At this point of the festival, my fellow programmers and I are feeling the effects of lingering Sundance exhaustion, jetlag, and sleep deprivation. If this is any indication, I arrived late to today’s 9.30am film market screening of Chris Kraus’s FOUR MINUTES and ended up watching the film with what felt like a Tiddly Wink on my eyeball--one of my contact lenses was inside out. I had run over to the CineStar and didn’t realize my mistake until I actually sat down—I suffered because I didn’t dare fiddle with it for fear of dropping it in the dark theatre! (Incidentally, I thought the film was good.)
But I might be in better shape than others. Kirsten Schaffer, senior director of Outfest—and someone I’m proud to call my boss--is in her hotel room right now fighting off some kind of evil illness, Jennifer Morris from Frameline, the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival is hobbling around town with a foot ailment (aspiring Frameline filmmakers, here’s a hint—offer her a foot massage!), Basil Tsiokos, head of everything at Newfest has reached new depths of bitterness, and Roberta Munroe from the Tampa LGBT Film Festival decided to take a break from the festival by going to Auschwitz for the day (wow!).
So before this festival malaise sets in, what do the queer festival programmers do when we descend upon the Berlinale? Well, unlike our mainstream festival counterparts, we can just concentrate on the gay stuff. We consult our handy Queer List, the list of films with “LGBT themes” compiled from all the Berlinale sections, which is helpful for us in deciding what we really need to see in order to scout films for our festivals. The trick is figuring out just how queer these films really are.
There are over 35 films on that Queer List this year—some are Competition films by established directors like LES TÉMOINS by André Téchiné, WALKER by Paul Schrader, and François Ozon’s ANGEL. There’s a handful of pop culture docs: SCOTT WALKER – 30 CENTURY MAN, THIS FILTHY WORLD (a John Waters performance film), LAGERFELD CONFIDENTIAL, two Warhol related docs, ANDY WARHOL: A DOCUMENTARY FILM by Ric Burns and A WALK INTO THE SEA: DANNY WILLIAMS AND THE WARHOL FACTORY by Esther B. Robinson.
There’s also a strong group of films from Asia, including Zero Chou’s SPIDER LILIES (check out h-o-t star Isabella Leong) and TULI, a lesbian film by Auraeas Solito, who won the TEDDY last year for his gem, THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS, and three from Korea—NO REGRET, LIKE A VIRGIN, and DASEPO NAUGHTY GIRLS.
Getting great audience reaction is the L.A-based organization POWER UP’s first feature film (never mind the harsh Variety review), director Jamie Babbit’s energetic ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE. Producer Lisa Thrasher, Jamie and two of the stars of the film, Nicole Vicius and Daniela Sea (from THE L WORD and on everybody’s most desirable list, regardless of gender or sexual orientation) are in Berlin to represent the film. The movie is great fun and the soundtrack is amazing (you’re in luck if you love Corin Tucker and Kathleen Hanna).
But so far no film has impressed me more than BRAND UPON THE BRAIN!, Guy Maddin’s gorgeous black and white silent film. It’s a stunning and completely riveting artistic triumph (even with the film breaking down during the screening). It also has a front and center lesbian plot, which was a pleasant surprise.
Most of the programmers also have European Film Market passes, where we have access to a slew of films that are not in the Berlinale (though some are in both) to see if any of these are films appropriate for our festivals. We scour the EFM catalog, reading between the lines of the film summaries to try to determine which films have gay content (what does “special friendship” mean? how revealing is that new Annie Leibovitz documentary?), which is why we’re grateful when a title like
POLTERGAY leaves no doubt (a couple moves into a house where the basement was a 1970s gay disco that burned down and now the house is haunted by gay disco dancing ghosts).
During film festivals, I find myself at a startling number of parties. The Berlin parties are smoky, stuffy and loud, but end up being really enjoyable—mainly because you get to see various colleagues/industry people and filmmakers throw decorum and any sensible decision out the window (walks of shame, anybody?). Though maybe it does make sense to stay out all night and come back to one’s hotel just in time for the beginning of the hotel breakfast (the German hotel buffet breakfasts are the best).
Last Sunday, the Queer Film Nation party at SchwuZ began with a charming touch—food! They had huge pots of carrot soup (vegetarian) and lentil soup (non-vegetarian), pieces of bread with curious meat slices and soft salads glopped on, and a fruit bowl (how often can you have half a kiwi and an entire banana at a bar?).
I had also heard quite a bit about the Verzaubert party and finally went to it on Monday night (thanks for the invite, Rudi!) at Roses, a bar that’s a U.S. fire marshal’s worst nightmare. What Roses lacks in square footage is made up for in kitschy and psychedelic décor (furry walls, tacky-terrifying paintings). The key to this party is to arrive early.
I wait with great anticipation for Friday’s TEDDY Ceremony to see what the TEDDY Jury comes up with (the after-party is also the mother of all queer parties—last year I pulled an all-nighter and hopped on a morning plane back to Los Angeles). I’m counting on North Americans Charlie Boudreau from Image + Nation (president of the TEDDY Jury) and Jason Plourde from the Seattle LGBT Film Fest, and new pals Fanney Tsimong from Out in Africa in South Africa and Misa Pnacekova from the Czech Gay and Lesbian Film Festival to hold up TEDDY tradition.
And finally, a best/worst of the Berlinale list
Special thanks to Andrea Winter, the TEDDY folks, and Wieland Speck. Until next year!