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Preview: The Queer movie festival season is on!

img  Claudia Lindner

Well,did you finish your programme planning for the annual festival successfully? 

Stefan Jung: Yes, though in the beginning, it looks as if we'd never get a programme together, in the end we always do.

What has changed the most regarding lesbian and gay movies in the recent 10 years in your opinon?

Christine Schewe: The contemporary movies are just different. If you took a look at our first programmes, you would see that many of the movies were coming out stories, though the early times of the gay and lesbian movement were long gone in the nineties.

But possibly not the early days of the lesbian and gay cinema?

S. J.: Obviously. Though there have been gay and lesbian movies throughout the eighties, the lesbian and gay cinema still led a very marginal life in the movie world, at least in Europe, let alone in other continents, except for North America. They existed, but they were a fewer number than today of course and they were not so much noticed in the community. Most of them were independent productions.

What influence did the AIDS issue have on the queer cinema?

S.J.: On the one hand, there was more public attention for gay themed movies dealing with it, just because it was urgent to gain public attention for this issue and because it was just ultimately everyday gay reality . But another effect of that was that the gay cinema was widely identified with dealing with AIDS and HIV. It was commonly expected, equally among the lesbian and gay community, that in every gay movie a character being infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS would or should appear.

C.S.: This relates mainly to the gay-themed cinema. But what was there for lesbians until the end of the eighthies or the beginning of the nineties? Desert Hearts? For a long time, the lesbian community didn't know many more lesbian movies. Only in the following years, there appeared some more lesbian movies. A coming out story here and there. The protagonists were exchangeable, and ultimately it was often enough very much of the same story: a love story of two, rather young women, the revelation, the more or less shocked environment, the crisis and finally, the happy ending.

Sounds like a rather drab movie genre.

C.S.: Coming out movies still do have their eligibility, even today. There are still always young gays and lesbians again for whom they are important. And many of the movies are still worth seeing for other lesbians and gays, too. Especially, because the coming out issue is dealt with more diversely, the contemporary movies aren't so serious anymore, but telling the stories more easily and often with a wink or just fancier.

S.J.: But in general, homosexuality has become a greater naturalness in the movies, just like in real life. The gay or lesbian or queer life draft exists, and it's not questioned constantly in every movie.

C.S.: Exactly. Just as sexual orientation or life style is not questioned in movies with heterosexual protagonists. Equally, queer movies deal with many different topics, only that the characters are lesbian or gay or transgender. For example, this year we show movies like „Finn's Girl“, dealing with changes in a lesbian family, with relationships and jobs. And there is the spanish movie „Vida de Familia“, telling about a lesbian couple's way to a child, anything, but deadly seriously.

But is there still one or the other classical coming out drama in you programme this year?

S.J.: Absolutely. „Mein Freund aus Faro“ which is this year's opening movie, definitely belongs to this category in my opinon. As for the content: young Mel presents her new Portugese colleague Nuno as her boyfriend when pressed by her family about this issue. When hitch-hiker Jenny takes her for a boy, she uses this identity to invent herself as young man after falling in love with Jenny. A rather classical coming out plot, I think. We're quite happy to be able to show this movie which has its premiere in Germany on that day because it was shot for a great part in Münster and the Münsterland. Moreover, the director Nana Neul will be our guest on this evening.

 Not only has the lesbian, gay and transgender cinema become as diverse as never before, it's also become much more international. Like many other lesbian and gay-themed festivals, you show more and more movies from more and more different countries this year.

C.S.: It's good to watch more and more movies appear no longer exclusively coming from North America or Europe, but for example more and more from Asia as well. Especially from Asia, we see many movies in the recent years which are very diverse in form and content, presenting new and suprising narrative styles. This year we present two Taiwanese movies. „Drifting flowers“ tells the story of three women finding their's self in different time periods, with one episode being the prologue to another episode's protagonist. „Candy Rain“ presents four short stories about lesbian life in Taipeh, only connected through one apartment where all characters in the movie reside. And there is Philippine movie „The Amazing Truth about Queen Raquela“, a fancy story about a gay ladyboy which is this year's Teddy Award Winner at the Berlinale, by the way.

S.J.: Time and again we can present movies from Latinamerica at our festival. This year's „Quemar las Naves“ deals with a siblings' intimate relationship forced to change or to break when confronted with one of the siblings falling in love with someone else. As it has often been the case with Latin-american cinema, the movie impresses with strong and intense acting performances.What's still lacking, are movies from Africa. Queer cinema seems not be that present in the African cinema.  

But homosexuality in islamic countries is an issue on the agenda.

C.S.: We had been planning to make it a key issue already on last year's Queerstreifen and the year before last year. But that finally failed due to the inavailability of the movies we wanted to show. But this time, two pictures deal with this still rather difficult topic. In Iran for instance, homosexuality is illegal, but sex change is legal. And „Be like Others“ tells the stories of those gay men who decide to undergo the operation to live as a woman rather than as a gay man in the future. And „A Jihad for Love“ lets lesbians and gays tell their stories how they reconcile their lifestyle with their muslim faith.

S.J.: It's important for us that this issue becomes visible and that lesbians and gays tell their own stories rather than being covered from the outside only.

The richness of genres presented at the festival is quite striking. Documentaries, short films, coming out movies, romantic movies, thrillers, even a gay horror movie.

S.J.: Actually, just in time for Halloween, we show two! „HellBent“, a real gay slasher movie where heads will roll and „Gay Zombie“, a short movie. This is a new genre for us and we still wonder how the audience will adopt it.

C.S.: Movies dealing with the transgender issue are also firmly established since the early years of our festival. With this topic also applies that the documentaries are more differentiated than before. In the past, there was a strong emphasis on the body change itself and the protagonist's 'natural' identity in the 'wrong body' as for example in „Gendernauts“, a movie we had shown in 1999. Today, transgender-themed films also deal with the impact their protagonists' decisions have on their relationships and the people in their environment. The view has broadened, away from an individualistic perspective only, including a more 'social' point of view. This is the attitude of „She's a Boy I Knew“ where Gwen Haworth tells her own story, including the thoughts and feelings of her family and friends in very personal interviews.

How is the programme for your annual festival achieved? How do you select the movies?

C.S.: There a no firm criteria which the movies must fulfill, except that they should somehow be gay, lesbian or transgender-themed. Our first benchmark in the annual scheduling mostly is the Berlinale. The movies which are shown off the official competition or in the Teddy Awards competition there, are the first we draw up a pre-short list with and investigate their availability and costs

S.J.: And the cooperation with other lesbian and gay film festivals plays an important part. We are associated with a number of other independent festivals throughout Germany. As most of them take place in fall as well, we can order movies together which are sent from one city to the next. That way we save money and this allows us to show many movies we wouldn't be able to screen otherwise. Of course we must co-ordinate our schedule with the other festivals. Therefore, we have an annual central 'sighting weekend' in Hamburg in May.

C.S.: Some movies we just don't like or they don't fit in our programme, others just are too expensive - we are a non-profit festival after all, and just can't pay many fees some distribution or production companies are charging.

S.J.: And this becomes more and more a problem every year because the fees are rising, but we can't just rise the price for a movie ticket every year. And the number of viewers is stable, with a slight decrease every year – which can be said for the movies in general since DVD's and multimedia home cinema are so common and widespread.                                                                                    

What can you do to counteract this development to ensure that small local or regional festivals like yours can survive?

C.S.: First of all we must expand the cooperation with other festivals and other movie-themed groups, organizations which might support us. Maybe we must think about fundraising, too. Maybe it's just a matter of knowing what we can afford and what we can't, in terms of movies or events which are a nice idea, but don't pay off in the end because the audience ignores them mostly, like a special on queer animes which we had last year. We don't want to quit those ideas completely because they are always fun and a variety, we just must find a compromise here and there between our ideas and the necessities.


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