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Tracking the Unseen – Films as Tools of Resistance

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in Femme by Sam H. Freeman und Ng Choon Ping
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in Femme by Sam H. Freeman und Ng Choon Ping

What do you do when the world is on fire? This is the question many of the filmmakers in this year’s Panorama programme are asking themselves. “Content and form are the means used to convey their cinematic responses to complex current events and individual upheavals. The camera serves as a tool, inspiration as a weapon. Images are created that fill gaps and act as important (oppositional) stances in societies,” observes section head Michael Stütz.

In And, Towards Happy Alleys, Indian director Sreemoyee Singh takes us to Tehran. Filming over the course of several years, she has created not only a love letter to Iranian cinema but also an authentic, disarming ode to the dissenting Iranian people and the artists and women who are on the frontline of the protests. In her feature film Sira, Apolline Traoré finds images to capture the fate of abducted women in the Sahel region. Her titular heroine defies the bloody terror and beats the brutal men with their own weapons. Ghaath (Ambush), Chhatrapal Ninawe’s unsparing tale of civil war between the communist Naxalites and the central Indian government, is a testament to India’s courageous political cinema.

Queer cinema is well represented this year. After receiving several rejections, twice-Grammy-nominated music producer D. Smith swiftly went about making her film Kokomo City by herself and thus became a debut director. In stylish black-and-white images, set to an eclectic soundtrack, four Black trans* sex workers from New York and Georgia share their experiences with uncompromising wit and wisdom. In their feature film debut Femme, London-based directing duo Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping have created a tremendous cinematic act of liberation and a furious queer revenge thriller starring the brilliant Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay in the lead roles. Sacha Polak’s Silver Haze is also set in London: in her second collaboration with actor Vicky Knight, Polak adeptly situates social background, personal trauma and the search for belonging in an urban space of stark contrasts.

This year, a total of three films invite us into the club as a social place and a space of timeless seduction and seemingly endless possibilities: Patric Chiha’s mesmerising club elegy La Bête dans la jungle (The Beast in the Jungle); Anthony Lapia’s film After; and Hannes Hirsch’s Berlin metamorphosis Drifter. These films could not be more different in style and narrative, but they all find a common denominator between beats, hedonism and losing oneself.

Another German film in the programme is İlker Çatak’s Das Lehrerzimmer (The Teachers’ Lounge) featuring European Shooting Star Leonie Benesch. In his densely structured feature film, the director takes a close look at the microcosm of a high school poisoned by power games and uncovers a social minefield. Writer and filmmaker Frauke Finsterwalder provides the third German contribution: ten years after Finsterworld, her new film Sisi & Ich (Sisi & I) offers us a feminist reinterpretation of the myth of the Austro-Hungarian empress from the point of view of her final companion and admirer, Irma Sztáray. It is a film full of surprises and interpretations that run counter to the accepted story, with Susanne Wolff and Sandra Hüller inspirational as the absurd, moving and anarchic duo.

At the 37th TEDDY AWARDS, the world’s longest-running and most important queer film award, the Special TEDDY for outstanding merits and achievements in queer cinema is being presented to the Sunny Bunny Award, the queer film prize of the Molodist Film Festival in Kyiv. The Ukrainian sister award to the TEDDY was established in 2001 and is the largest and most important LGBTQI+ cultural event in Ukraine.

The films of the 2023 edition are courageous, genuine and urgent. On February 16, the doors of the Panorama will be opening in the Zoo Palast for the first time as, with La Sirène (The Siren) by Sepideh Farsi, we bring an engaging and politically urgent film to Berlin that will set the course for the next ten days and our 35 films. We are looking forward to seeing the filmmakers, the industry and you, the audience, as we are reunited again in the darkness of the city’s cinemas.

Overview of the further announced titles of Panorama.

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