2019 marks the 40th edition of the Panorama section of the Berlinale. Since its initiation in 1980 under the title Info-Schau, the section has presented films intended to inspire and provoke, and to challenge the audience’s viewing and thinking habits. The film selection is simultaneously an offering and a call to look at cinema differently. On the occasion of the section’s 40th anniversary, Panorama presents a special programme from its 40-year history.
“The selection for our anniversary programme is eclectic - every work stands for a whole slew of other films. Rather than a ‘best of’, our retrospect aims to reflect the soul of the programme: to re-discover works in danger of being forgotten and bring them back into dialogue with current events,” says Wieland Speck, the long-standing head of Panorama, co-founder of the TEDDY AWARD, and curator of the anniversary programme.
“I congratulate Panorama on its 40th birthday, and especially Wieland on his fantastic work in making the section a platform for ambitious independent film,” adds Festival Director Dieter Kosslick.
When the Berlin International Film Festival first came under the direction of Moritz de Hadeln in 1980, he flanked the Competition with a programme section that would have more selective freedom than Competition, as well as allow more radicalness and include the new developments in cinema. The 1970s brought forth a cornucopia of innovations in film. Self-empowered subcultures became a social motor and emancipation theories were implemented with scientific precision. Instead of normativity, its alternatives became desirable - and this was reflected with new film languages and indeed, a new cinematic landscape.
These energetic changes were virtually screaming for commensurate presentation within the festival. De Hadeln instated legendary cinema runner and Forum co-founder Manfred Salzgeber as section head and, in the first year, Salzgeber not only presented works by filmmakers such as Catherine Breillat, John Waters, Atıf Yılmaz, Miklós Jancsó and Helma Sanders-Brahms, but also gave viewers a sense of the section’s future profile with regards to films from Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America, and to the future focus on gay and lesbian cinema.
Queer cinema, or gender focus - since both feminist principles and trans* themes have been part of the section since its inception - was shocking and unheard of in the festival world of that time. In Salzgeber’s second year as head of the section, he selected a short film by Wieland Speck. The ensuing collaboration by the two curators, which also led to the birth of the TEDDY AWARD - the queer film award at the Berlinale - lasted past Wieland Speck’s taking on of the Panorama leadership, starting in 1992, until Manfred Salzgeber’s untimely death of AIDS in 1994.
The annual selections in the years that followed also highlighted themes such as: Countries in focus, international freedom movements, the joy of experiments in aesthetics, the discovery of now well-known filmmakers and thematic impressions, the subject of AIDS as a battle cry in filmmaking, and last but not least, the short format as a tireless breeding ground for talent.
The Panorama Audience Award, presented annually to a fiction and documentary film in the section, also speaks to the programme’s typical interaction with questions and topics of the day. With participation by approximately 30,000 viewers, the Panorama Audience Award will be awarded in 2019 for the 21st time in cooperation with radioeins and rbb television.
Wieland Speck, who curated and shaped Panorama from 1993 - 2017, and his long-standing colleague Andreas Struck have selected nine fiction films and three essay documentaries from a catalogue of more than 1,800 works, as well as eleven short films from a catalogue of over 600 for the Panorama 40 programme.
The 40th anniversary reflection programme and its themes:
Panorama First Move
In February of 1986, star director Lasse Hallström - then relatively unknown outside of Sweden - gained worldwide recognition with the premiere of Mitt liv som hund (My Life as a Dog) at Panorama. Hallström returned to Panorama in 1994 with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and later presented two films in Competition - Chocolat in 2001 and The Shipping News in 2002. The other two directors in this grouping have similar stories: Tsai Ming-liang returned to Competition and Panorama multiple times after his furious debut Ching shao nien na cha (Rebels of the Neon God, 1992), and Ulrich Köhler’s celebrated first feature Bungalow (2002) paved the way for Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness) in the 2011 Competition. These three films - in which young rebels struggle for self-determination within the normative bevy of societal expectations - stand for a large catalogue of early works by directing masters of the current day that Manfred Salzgeber and Wieland Speck discovered for an international audience. The list includes Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant, Pedro Almodóvar, Małgorzata Szumowska, Kim Ki-duk, Daniel Burman and Teona Strugar Mitevska, to name just a few.
With Lady Chatterley in 2007, the French director Pascale Ferran succeeded in creating a simultaneously sober and sensitive study on blossoming female sexuality, filled with happiness, liberated from shame, independent of social class distinction. The first film adaptation of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by a female director focuses on D. H. Lawrence’s protagonist and her tempestuous departure from the constraints of Victorian domesticity.
After World War II, when Tom of Finland began drawing his intimate fantasies, he had no way of knowing that he was creating what would become a world-famous oeuvre of subcultural icons that, to this day, continues inspiring gay men to align their appearance with their own identity. Ilppo Pohjola’s essay documentary Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1991) is the only film ever made with the influential artist.
The Battle for Freedom
Stalwart action against human rights abuses, the battle against oppression, and the search for freedom form a common theme in all Panorama programmes. Four seldom-seen films were selected to represent that theme: To organize armed resistance against the apartheid regime in the early 1960s, Nelson Mandela travelled through the country incognito as the chauffeur of a renowned theatre director. The man was Cecil Williams, a dedicated freedom fighter, played by Corin Redgrave in The Man Who Drove With Mandela (1998), Greta Schiller’s memorial to this forgotten hero.