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American Women's Club of Hamburg

International Queer Film Festival

This Hamburg festival, called Lesbisch Schwule (Gay Lesbian) FilmTage Hamburg showed October 15-20. Now in its 30th year, it featured over 120 films, both short and full-length, feature and documentary. The focus was on queer solidarity, i.e., how gay people can work together to push back anything white, homophobic, sexist, racist, patriarchal, or violent. Four cinemas opened their doors: 3001 Kino, B-Movie, Metropolis, and Passage. There were special events and an exhibit in two bars:  Hein & Fiete and Tagbar in der Kante, as well as in Kampnagel and the Rote Flora. The central office is Schanzenstrasse 43/45. There were invitations to eight parties, a special workshop sponsored by QPoCHH (Queer People of Color). I counted 67 showings or events in the seven days. Four films showed to school classes and students could discuss them. Six films honored the work of Barbara Hammer. A lesbian film-making pioneer, she was born 1939 in Hollywood, worked in New York and died March 2019.

There was a panel discussion at Metropolis Cinema on the topic of “Queer visibility in Film.” Moderated by Allene Pinkert, who also introduced films and led discussions during the festival, there were four members of the panel. Natasche Frankenberg is active in the international Women’s Film Festival in Dortmund/Cologne, as well as the Teddy Awards at the Berlinale. She speaks for the representation of women in film, where one can recognize one’s self. Films should represent reality and festivals are public events where people talk with each other and compare impressions. In the past, films were mostly about men, but this emphasis is changing. Sophie Charlotte Rieger is a film critic and author. She said that the #MeToo movement has helped feminism become more visible, but still it is difficult to get a job in the film world, both before and behind the camera. Kai S. Pieck, director and author, said that there are no really dependable statistics of gay people worldwide. He accepts 7.4% as being lesbian, gay, or trans. There are no real role models; many gay people are without orientation, and there is a high rate of suicides. Schools should help prepare those students who wish for a coming out. Also, people with handicaps or people of color should receive the same support. He helped originate the Queer Media Society which is Germany’s only network of people who produce gay media. Toby Chlosta is also a member of the Queer Media Society and a film maker. We watched part of his film Queer Amsterdam. He grew up in Amsterdam with German parents and speaks both languages fluently. He said that “gay” now means more than some local gay hair dresser. Should a person’s sex even play a role? Why is that important? One should watch a film for quality, especially in these days of “bad stuff.” Sex should be equal and, again, we need role models, networking, visibility, education on outing, etc.

DARKROOM – TÖDLICHE TROPFEN played in Hamburg at both the gay, as well as the Filmfest Hamburg, which confirms comments during the panel discussion, that a good film will appeal to all and sex is unimportant. Here, Lars and his partner move to Berlin and begin renovating their apartment. Lars works as a caregiver in a home for old people. He communicates with other gay men, which leads to their deaths. Based on a true story, director Rosa von Praunheim emphasizes Lars’ narcissism and serial killing. The sexual choice is less important, except for the selection of victims. In LINGUA FRANCA, Olivia is a caregiver from the Philippines, living illegally in the USA. She is a transvestite, looking for a “man” to marry so that she can get a residence permit. This film showed at the Filmfest Hamburg, obviously to a hetero audience, but could have been shown at the Gay/Lesbian Film Festival as well. Here sex was important, but the main topic was legality of immigrants.

At the Gay/Lesbian FilmTage Hamburg there were seven prizes. One winner of 5000 euros was selected by a designated jury. Otherwise, six awards of 1000 euros each were decided by the audiences, namely three prizes for short films, one for best long feature film, best documentary, and best new German-made film.
English speakers could find much to view with over 20 feature films made either in the USA (14 films) or in other English-speaking countries such as Canada, UK, and Australia. Otherwise, almost all “foreign” films had English subtitles. The informative festival magazine was in German and English.

Actually, the festival ran longer than the seven days indicated, since there were previews of films already in September and popular films were repeated in various cinemas after the festival. There is a fan club called Push-up Club with over 350 members who pay 10 euros a month to be involved. They all received tickets for free, as well as invitations to special events. To join go to www.LSF-Hamburg.de/push-up. For all information about the festival go to www.lsf-hamburg.de.  

What did I learn at this festival? In Passage Cinema there are two toilets, one marked with the figure of a man and one with a woman. During the festival, these figures were hidden behind pieces of paper upon which was written, “Standing-only toilet” and “Sitting-only toilet.” Normally, I can’t guess anyone’s sexual preference and have little experience with gay people except for some friends, and two relatives. I was completely surprised when I read that this very charismatic Toby Chlosta was actually Anne, originally a female and now he identifies as a man. I would never have guessed. Also, I was truly surprised, that I didn’t always understand the gay vocabulary used in discussions, starting with the word “bi-sexual” which the Germans pronounce “bee.” Sitting in a gay discussion was, for me, much like sitting in a discussion about the internet. What are they saying? (BT)

David Charles Rodriquez, USA

Luckily I got the next-to-last ticket in sold-out Passage Cinema. I met a founder of the festival, who said that he now lived in San Francisco, missed this film when it showed there, and was happy to be back in Hamburg in time for this showing. It features 300 members of the San Francisco Gay Chorus, which goes on a seven-day tour for 25 performances. This takes them through the “anti-gay” US states of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, South and North Carolina. They said that after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the discouraging attitude of these states against the gay population came to light, accompanied by new laws restricting their life styles. The choice of songs was often of a religious nature such as the well-known “Amazing Grace.” Their songs (16 presented in the film) fit well in churches which provided them with areas to perform, as well as much of the audience. They were “breaking borders” and not all pastors were willing to allow their performances; many worried that they would lose their conservative (white) congregation. Several choir members were featured in more detail, and we learned about their private lives, coming out, family relationships and problems at work. “Singing and music carries us through hard times.” “When you listen to music, you don’t see gay or straight.” “It’s a universal language.” The members of the choir paid their own way for this seven-day trip and money earned from selling tickets was divided between four charities of their choice. They said that the average person’s impression of the American South comes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gone with the Wind. I definitely think that the San Francisco Gay Chorus should come to Hamburg. It would sell out as fast as their film did. This won the audience prize for best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. (BT)

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