Manchester-born, Berlin-based piano maestro Jack Woodhead was again the flamboyant master of ceremonies at the 32nd Teddy Awards and had the audience wondering whether he could be hired to liven up the Oscars broadcast next week.
Still, there was a serious mood at the event as right-wing forces have stirred up German politics and there is genuine fear in the LGBTQI community. Wieland Speck, the former Panorama section head and the force behind instigating the Berlinale’s queer programme, told the crowd how he feared that “the right will consolidate themselves in the years to come. But the Teddys will remain strong no matter what the politics say, because the ticket sales pay for the event and prizes, independently of the Berlinale. Life is possible on a non-queer planet for queers.”
Seven programmers of queer film festivals around the globe are invited each year to judge the Teddy prizes. When they took to the stage to present the awards, they commended Speck for his work over the past three decades, prompting the crowd to leap to their feet to genuinely applaud the unpretentious Berliner.
Many of these festivals and, in fact, many LBGTQI films would never have been possible without Speck’s trailblazing.
Bohdan Zhuk from the Kyiv International Film Festival in Ukraine notes how his festival offers a Sunny Bunny award, saying, “It was directly inspired by Teddy and has been part of our festival since 2001. We’re very proud to be a major queer event in Ukraine where there aren’t so many."
In Mexico, Antonio Harfuch has curated a queer section of the Morelia International Film Festival for the past three years. “Right now, we’re showing wonderful LGBTQ Latin American films to the world and it’s an example of how we really need to open up the argument about what it means to be diverse in Latin America," he says. "For us the queer films at the Berlinale are a very solid example of what we can do to embrace diversity."
The Berlin Teddy
There was no doubting that the Brazilian Panorama entry, Hard Paint by Marcio Reolon and Filipe Matzembacher, would emerge as the Best Picture Teddy winner. It won over two competition entries, The Heiresses, which took out a prize in the main competition, and Touch Me Not, which controversially came out of nowhere to win the Golden Bear.
Hard Paint follows a socially withdrawn young Brazilian man working as a seductive gay chat-room performer. When a copycat steals his trademark of donning neon body paint, suddenly his life opens up to new possibilities.
In his acceptance speech, Reolon thanked the Panorama team for believing in the film and offering so much support. They also shared the award with their actor Shico Menegat. “It was the first time Shico and his co-star [theatre actor Bruno Fernandas] appeared on camera. We’d like to dedicate this award to the queer and LGBT people in Brazil. We now face not only the loss of our democracy, but also the conservative political forces. It’s very important for queer people from all over the world to watch each other’s backs, to stand up for each other and to overcome these horrible situations. No queer must be left behind.”
Menegat, who The Hollywood Reporter called “a real find”, thanked his director for the opportunity, “not only to learn about acting but to learn about myself and my own body. I learned acting through an expression of sensitivity.”
Best Documentary Teddy
Bixa Travesty (Tranny Fag) by Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman took out the documentary category. The film is an intimate, confronting portrait of black trans performer Linn da Quebrada, who grew up in a São Paulo favela. She says she makes her music to protect herself from traditional and conservative thoughts, and indeed her loud, abrasive style is far from conservative, as the Teddy audience witnessed first-hand.
Special Jury Award
Greek director Evangelia Kranioti won for Obscuro Barroco, a profile of the Brazilian transvestite Luana Muniz. “For this film I crossed the path of a very special creature, a special person, who passed away shortly after we finished filming,” Kranioti explains. “She was a public figure and an activist, who was never afraid to speak out. So with this film, I am paying homage. It was a privilege to have filmed the last year of her life. It's an important film about bodies that transform. I hope it will be about minds transforming, too.”