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Report from the TEDDY Awards 2020 at Volksbühne

(Annie Heger, Eidin Jalali, Edson Cordeiro, Banafshe Hourmazdi, Faraz Shariat, TEDDY winners © Lindsay R. Bellinger)
 
by LINDSAY R. BELLINGER 

German singer/actress/moderator Annie Heger as host of the TEDDY Awards was an inspired choice! On the evening of February 28, 2020 she brought the right amount of energy to the Volksbühne, maybe even more than some members of the audience. I was a little surprised that the older male German couple sitting beside me found it necessary to complain to me about my notetaking during the event. The rest of the audience seemed in a much lighter and uplifting mood. Besides two somewhat awkward interactions that Heger had with TEDDY Award jury members, her hosting went off without a hitch. I particularly liked Heger's call to action, call to scream against all the silence that she says that Germany has been all too familiar with in the past years. Hopefully this didn't put too much of a damper on the mood of some German audience members, but if it did then that in itself shows that there is something that needs to be worked on, reflected on. I noticed the Kokon (Cocoon) film team arrive a little late and rather than push past those already seated they took seats on the side aisles. It's too bad that Leonie Krippendorff's film didn't get any love at the TEDDY Award this year because Kokon was really a very touching and relevant coming-of-age story set in Berlin. 

((Banafshe Hourmazdi, Faraz Shariat, Tsai Ming-liang, Lee Kang-sheng, © Lindsay R. Bellinger)

Berlinale executive director Mariette Rissenbeck (sorry she's not a producer, Annie) made some quick opening remarks before she had to jet off to join Carlo Chatrian and others on the Red Carpet. Holly Schlott joined Heger on stage after a short introduction as the only openly trans saxophonist in the world, who had a very celebrated 40-year career as a straight CIS male musician before leaving Volker behind and becoming Holly, TransSAX. Schlott's interview with Heger following her and The Impressions amazing performance was short and to the point. Holly and her musicians stayed on the stage for the remainder of the evening, enhancing certain moments of the evening with their musical talents. 

The CEO at Queer.de Michael Schulze pointed out an alarming fact that 6 hate crimes have taken place against trans people in Berlin in February alone and also pointed out the so-called corrective rape of lesbians in South Africa and the LGBT-free zones in Poland. His job working in queer media is far from finished. He shared that as a journalist at Queer.de in 2017, they started reporting on the persecution of queer people in Chechnya before any of the mainstream media picked up on it and before the German government took action. Filmmaker David France's documentary Welcome to Chechnya highlights the work and dangerous conditions that these activists continues to face. Amanda Heilbrock, also from Queer.de presented the TEDDY Readers' Award to Futur Drei (No Hard Feelings), Faraz Shariat's semi-biographical film about immigration, queer life in Germany (in a Flüchtlingsheim), coming of age and so much more. 
 
Next, Michael Stütz who heads the Panorama section for the first year (who Mariette Rissenbeck fondly referred to as Miki) took the stage to introduced TEDDY jury members Cristian Rodríguez and Heitor Augusto who shared a little about their involvement in the filmmaking world. Rodríguez and Augusto presented the TEDDY jury award to the deserving and ever-so-talented Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang for his film Rizi (Days), which stars Tsai frequent collaborator Lee Kang-sheng. Tsai and Lee are a magical pairing, whose collaborations have blessed the world with some true cinematic gems. Tsai's Rizi competed for the Golden Bear this year, and he was in good company as he was not the only auteur in the bunch. He kept his acceptance speech short and sweet, giving props to Taiwan for being the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage last year followed by his dedicating the award to his country Taiwan who he loves so much. 
 
(Tsai Ming-liang, Lee Kang-sheng, © Lindsay R. Bellinger)
 
Heger returned to the mike and shouted out to her mom who just so happens to be a huge fan of LEOPOLD a relatively new German singer and performer who is part of a new generation of LGBTQI musicians and artists. Leopold performed the songs "GMSTL" and "This" which the audience seemed to enjoy. I snapped a photo of Leopold on the red carpet in a stunning Thomas Hanisch dress before the evening got into full swing. 
 
Chris Belloni, TEDDY jury member and documentary filmmaker from Amsterdam, Holland who is the producer/director of the International Queer & Migrant Film Festival Amsterdam, which has been going strong since 2015, took the stage to present the Best Short Film Winner. Argentinian filmmaker Agustina Comedi came to the stage for her short film Playback. Ensayo de una despedida. and while scrambling to hold her cell phone and clinging to her TEDDY she told the audience, "It seems I erased what I had to say" which was welcomed with warm audience laughter. She particularly wanted thank her team, saying that films are a collective, and she thanked the actresses in her film,"...for their love and their rebellious attitude..." Canadian-based jury member Nataleah Hunter-Young is part of the programming team at TIFF, a PhD candidate at Ryerson and York Universities and has helped as a film programmer at Durban International Film Festival in South Africa joined Heger on stage. Together they presented the best documentary/essay film to Patric Chiha for his unique and theatrical documentary Si c’etait de l’amour (If It Were Love). Chiha wasn't able to attend the TEDDY Awards this year but he sent a video message, which oddly enough was not only interrupted by a call on his end but also had a large stack of OBI moving boxes in the background. Heger made a joke afterwards saying that OBI did not sponsor the event.
 
(Edson Cordeiro © Gal Oppido)
 
Perhaps the biggest highlight for much of the evening was the performance by the BABYLON Orchester Berlin who was accompanied by the vocal stylings of Brazilian superstar Edson Cordeiro. They performed "Kinostar", "Anders als die Anderen" and "Das LiLa Lied" which were all top-notch. The performance of the gay anthem from 100 years ago opened up the conversation for Heger to speculate how it was in Germany at that time, when it got better and more prosperous before it got bad and then got good again and for the past 70 years Germany has luckily been peaceful. This lead to her to share, "We have to cry out for solidarity again.And let us be, in Germany, even though we have to fight still for a lot of things in this country, still we can be a lighthouse for, for gay rights, for equality. Still we don't have to be scared, sometimes, when we go home in the dark or go into clubs and just show who we are. Let's try to be a sight light (side light, hard to understand with the accent), a sight light (side light) for other countries but most important is, I think, that we're all, again, try to be activists than just being a sight light (side light), just being a lighthouse doesn't help very often. So let's all be activists and the next award is the Activists Award." 
 
Heger then welcomed David France, the director of Welcome to Chechnya, to the stage to present the TEDDY to the protagonists in his documentary film, a film that has gotten praise in every corner of the Berlinale. David, Olga and Maxim, the three main protagonists in his film, shared three remarkable and difficult years of their lives with the filmmaker and his team and received a standing ovation as they entered the stage. Longtime TEDDY Awards supporter and friend Harald Christ sponsor thes 5,000€ financial grant that is tied to the Activist Award. While praising David, Olga and Maxim and before handing over the Activist Award to them Christ declared, "Being gay is not a crime but hunting gays is crime." Maxim Lapunov, through a talented translator by his side, went on to thank everyone who has helped them and in particular he wanted to thank his heroes Olga and David for helping him to continue to fight for his rights. Emma Laule, an aerial acrobat wowed the audience with her impressive and death-defying acrobatic maneuvers on her vertical rope. Many in the audience broke the rules and took video and photos of her performance, even some Taiwanese filmmakers in the audience two rows ahead of me, but I refrained so sadly I have no photo to share of Emma. 
 
Jury members Sylva Händle and Ksenia Ilina came to the stage and presented Faraz Shariat and Futur Drei (No Hard Feelings) film team their second TEDDY of the evening, this time for the Best Feature Film. Upon accepting the TEDDY from "Liza Minelli from Cabaret" (one of the drag queen presenters Gabi dressed as Liza), Shariat stated, "I wasn't prepared for the first one and I'm less prepared for this one." Faraz Shariat thanked their collective, the Jungendliche Kollektiv, which worked a hardcore three to four years on their film who worked together without the help of any film school. Collectives and passionate artists can really make things happen!
 
(Faraz Shariat, © Lindsay R. Bellinger)
 
For those who'd like to watch the entirety of the TEDDY Awards 2020 you can watch it here. Then you can decide if Annie Heger also reminds you of English actress/writer/producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Maybe it's just me. 
 
 
***Keep on the lookout for some highlights from the TEDDY Award Red Carpet. Coming soon!

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Chatelin Bruno

Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
Ambiance, film reviews, trailers and podcasts, EFM insider information, and much more.
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