The Panorama section of the Berlinale, known for its edgy programming, is celebrating two significant anniversaries this year. The first is the 30 year involvement of Wieland Speck, the handsome honcho who began his involvement as an assistant to the legendary Manfred Salzgaber, a producer and film exhibitor who began the section as an alternative to the somewhat stuffy programming of the main Berlinale section. With an emphasis on queer and outsider cinema, the Panorama was eventually incorporated into the Festival proper, but is still the place to go to see films with queer or unconventional content. In recent years, it also has hosted quality films of all genres that did not make the cut to the main Competition section. However, for many, it is “must see” section of the Festival, because of its consistent quality and its championing of new voices.
Asked to explain his longevity with the section, Speck was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter as saying that “we have always been a step ahead or hand in hand with the zeitgeist with our programming….and the symbiosis with the city of Berlin gives you that special character that makes one want to carry on.”
The other special anniversary is the 25th presentation of the Teddy Awards, festival prizes honoring the lesbian, gay, bisexual and filmmakers with films in all the various sections of the Festival. The awards ceremony, known for its kitschy glamour, is one of the social events of the year, with tuxedoed professionals rubbing shoulders with glam drag queens. For the first time, it will be held in the main hall of the former Templehof Airport, south of the city. “I have wanted to go there for ages and now it’s worked out”, Speck declared. “The gay friendly mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit was instrumental in making this happen. It should be one hell of a party.”
The Panorama section opens this year with TOMBOY, a French coming-of-age film written and directed by Celine Sciamma. In the engaging tale, a 10 year old girl moves to a new village with her family where she finds it hard to make friends. However, because she is so boyish, she pretends to be a boy and suddenly finds her the most popular person in her crowd. Things get complicated when she develops a close friendship with another girl and the ambiguities and sexual tensions rise to the surface.
Writer/director Celine Sciamma is making a name for herself as one of the new voices in a new generation of French filmmakers. Trained at the La Femis Film School, she worked as a screenwriter on several films before venturing into her feature film debut WATER LILLIES in 2007, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. TOMBOY is her sophomore effort. Asked about her artistic influences, Sciamma was quoted in the Festival catalogue as saying “I became a cinephile as a result of the young French cinema of the 1990s, especially Desplechin, Lvovsky, Rochant. I also like the films of Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark and their take on adolescence…and of course, the films of David Lynch.” TOMBOY is being represented here by French sales agent Films Distribution.