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Berlin Panorama celebrates 20 years


The Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, continuing a tradition of bringing the work of innovative and original artists to the international arena.

The Panorama’s “patron saint” is its founder, Manfred Salzgeber, a theater owner and arthouse distributor, who almost single handedly created the underground film aesthetic in Berlin, and was influential in the spread of these unique films to countries all over the world.

Salzgeber had organized the “Info Schau” of the 1970s, an alternative to the Competition program. In 1980, the then Festival Director Moritz de Hadeln gave Salzgeber the mandate to create an alternative section to the main Festival event, to showcase the work of new film artists.

Starting in 1984, the Panorama became an official section of the Festival, providing a home for offbeat, eccentric productions. The section was the first to introduce the films of such exciting film talents as Pedro Almodovar, Gus Van Sant, Aki Kaurismaki, Lars Von Trier, Oliver Stone, Kevin Smith, Stanley Kwan, Isaac Julien, Don McKellar, Ventura Pons, Amos Kollek, Rosa Von Praunheim, Mario Van Peebles and many others.

The section was the first at any major film festival to have a strong commitment to gay and lesbian film, introducing such landmark titles as The Times of Harvey Milk, Before Stonewall, Mala Noche and Laws of Desire. The Teddy Awards, a gala awards ceremony to honor the top gay and lesbian films in the Festival, has become one of the event’s highlights and an outrageous evening of Berlin atmosphere.

Since 1992, the section has been directed by Wieland Speck, with able assistance from Margaret Von Schiller and a team of programmers. Veteran festival goers know that the most adventurous, not to mention the most sexually dynamic, programming is to be found in the Panorama.

The Panorama has grown to such importance that it actually has divided into 4 sections: Panorama Main Programme (for better known films and filmmakers), Panorama Dokumente (devoted exclusively to documentaries), Panorama Special (unclassifiably different views from around the world) and the newest, Panorama Short Films, highlighting the burgeoning talent pool creating short subjects.

This year’s crop is one of the best in memory, including such titles as Sundance favourites The Dying Gaul (director: Craig Lucas), The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig), The Ballad of Jack and Rose (Rebecca Miller), Forty Shades of Blue (Ira Sachs) and Inside Deep Throat (Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey).

Returning filmmakers include Sally Potter (Yes), Ventura Pons (Idiot Love), Heroes and Gay Nazis (Rosa Von Praunheim), The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess (Bruce McDonald), Child Star (Don McKellar), Dumplings (Fruit Chan) and Constanine Giannaris (Hostage).

The Panorama would not be such a sensation without its commitment to films that explore sex and sexuality, and this year is no different. Films with a sex quotient making their debut include A Year Without Love (Anahi Bern, Argentina), Mariscos Beach (Olivier Duscatel and Jacques Martineau, France), Gender X (Julia Ostertag, Germany), That Man: Peter Berlin (Jim Tushinksi, USA), Cycles of Porn (Jochen Hick, Germany) and Transamerica (Duncan Tucker, USA).

Speck, who has an excellent reputation as an adventurous programmer and vociferous defender of alternative cinema, is one of Berlin’s icons, a dapper presence who, despite many sleepless nights, always brings an air of sophistication and calm into what can be a chaotic Festival atmosphere.

“I believe that, after 20 years of building up the Panorama, we can really say that you can discover the art house program for the next season that will come to countries all over the globe”, Speck offered. The Panorama, a continuing pleasure of film celebration for two decades.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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