Never before have documentaries been able to assert themselves so successfully in movie theatres as they do today. This remarkable development can be regarded as an expression of the desire of viewers to go beyond the infotainment of television and grapple more deeply with controversial topics. Panorama Dokumente was a forerunner of this development and its presence will be stronger than ever this year – for the selections have never been so diverse; the topics, never so explosive. To be certain, one of the explanations for this is digital production technology, which has not only made the conditions for making films more favourable but also given the films themselves greater immediacy.
The main topics of this year’s programme are politics, music, sex and gender– rounded off by two portraits: in Den Tigerfrauen wachsen Flügel (Tigerwomen Grow Wings, Germany/Taiwan), Monika Treut presents three Taiwanese women who epitomize the diversity of this China in miniature. In Horst Buchholz... Mein Papa (Horst Buchholz …My Papa, Germany), Christopher Buchholz and Sandra Hacker allow us to take a look at the life of this internationally acclaimed German star who died in 2003.
A topic in three films: male violence and adolescence. In Weisse Raben – Alptraum Tschetschenien (White Ravens – Nightmare in Chechnya) by Tamara Trampe and Johann Feindt (Germany), Russian youths are sent off as soldiers to Chechnya and return home ruined in both body and soul. Massaker (Massacre) by Monika Borgmann, Lokman Slim and Hermann Theissen (Germany/ Lebanon/ Switzerland/ France) focuses on men, now in their mid-thirties, who as young men in Lebanon were turned into murderers by their military superiors. Lost Children (Verlorene Kinder) by Ali Samadi Ahadi and Oliver Stoltz (Germany) confronts viewers with the inconceivable cruelties being inflicted on kidnapped children today by rebels in Uganda and Sudan, and shows society’s attempt not to capitulate in view of the consequences.
Anti-Semitism in the USA today: in Protocols of Zion (USA), feature and documentary filmmaker Mark Levin goes out into New York’s ethnically diverse districts and tracks down the frightening success of the reprint of this book of the same name, which was originally published by the secret service of Russia’s last tsar. Männer Helden und schwule Nazis (Heroes and Gay Nazis) by Rosa von Praunheim (Germany) is about homosexual perpetrators within the Nazi system and gays active in the neo-Nazi scene today. In contrast, Praunheim gives a victim a chance to voice himself in Umsonst gelebt - Walter Schwarze (A Life in Vain – Walter Schwarze). Lutz Hachmeister’s Das Goebbels Experiment (The Goebbels Experiment, Germany) uses archive footage and journal entries to give a telling picture of this Nazi leader’s extremely oscillating conception of himself. The texts are spoken by Udo Samel (English: Kenneth Branagh). With 2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß (2 or 3 Things I know about him, Germany), Malte Ludin illustrates how deeply rooted a family’s inability is to come to terms with the fact that their father was a Nazi perpetrator.
Overground and underground: George Michael - A Different Story by Southan Morris (Great Britain) conveys George Michael’s personal views and their socio-political dimensions. Jeff Feuerzeig portrays Daniel Johnston, probably the least commercial star in the world, in The Devil and Daniel Johnston (USA) and shows that despite all commercial threats to it, the underground survived the nineties. Similar evidence is provided by Antonia Ganz in her lively film about Berlin’s independent band "Mutter" that cannot be pigeonholed: Wir waren niemals hier (We never were here, Germany).
Sex and Gender
The early seventies: Linda Lovelace became the first international porn icon with the first porn movie to become a worldwide success and a starting point for the emergence of the porn industry: Deep Throat. Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey tell the film’s story from the inside and depict its lasting impact on society in Inside Deep Throat (USA). In 2003 these directors also participated in the Panorama with Party Monster. And then a complementary film from the early seventies, the first gay porn icon: That Man: Peter Berlin by Jim Tushinski (USA) traces the self-made success of this Berliner by birth. Walter Stokman’s Based On A True Story (The Netherlands) tells the true tale behind Sidney Lumet’s masterpiece Dog Day Afternoon, a story of bank robbery and transsexuality which won an Oscar for the best screenplay in 1976. And also the issue of transgender today: Gender X (Germany) reveals the modern and deeply different self-image which young gender benders have in present-day Berlin. How the Internet has come to monopolize sexual transactions is portrayed by Jochen Hick in Cycles Of Porn - Sex/Life in L.A. Part 2 (Germany).
And last but not least, a historical look at the lesbian world in Switzerland: Veronika Minder’s Katzenball (Feline Masquerade, Switzerland) gives women of different ages and walks of life a chance to voice themselves and by doing so forges links between the past and the future.
The selection for the Panorama’s main programme and for Panorama Special and Panorama Short Film will be concluded within the next days.
January 25, 2005