Gay life in and outside of New York dominates this year’s Dokumente sidebar. Both Rock Hudson and The Boys in the Band are placed beneath the camera lens. But if camp reappraisal isn’t your cinematic bag, then perhaps a lost Nazi propaganda film or Iran on the eve of a momentous election will be more to the taste. Too grim? In fact, the overall mood is one of celebration, whether it’s being LGBT in Israel or simply pounding the Berlin pavements.
Hazman havarod (Gay Days)
Israel once had a reputation as a homophobic country, with police quick to crack down on gays and transsexuals with violent enthusiasm. In the last decade or so, homosexuality has been decriminalized and Israel now celebrates its gay heritage. A transsexual singer, Dana International, even won the Eurovision Song Contest for Israel in 1998. Yair Qedars examines what he calls “the pink revolution.”
Fun fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: Dana International is now a judge on Israel’s equivalent of American Idol.
I Shot My Love
A funny thing happen when director Tomer Heymann screened his last film Paper Dolls (2005) at the Berlin Film Festival. He met a German dancer, Andreas Merk, and fell in love. Merk moves to Tel Aviv to be with Tomer, but finds life in Israel difficult. The couple’s future also depends on Tomer’s patriotic mother, who is reluctant to let her son leave the country.
Fun fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: Paper Dolls took as its subject Filipino transsexuals working in Israel as caretakers for elderly Orthodox Jews.
Making the Boys
A year before the Stonewall Riots, a play called The Boys in the Band opened in New York to rave reviews. Playwright Mart Crowley pulled the curtain back on a certain type of gay life and audiences couldn’t get enough. This film by Crayton Robey looks at the gestation of Crowley’s work and its impact on gay culture and the mainstream. Interviewees include Edward Albee, Tony Kushner and William Friedkin.
Fun fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: Crowley wrote Band while working as an assistant to Natalie Wood.
New York Memories
In 1990, Rosa von Praunheim premiered Uberleben in New York at Berlin. The film told of a trio of friends and their experiences in 1980s “Drop Dead” Gotham. His latest goes back to the scenes of the crime. Von Praunheim tracks down the stars of the movie and revisits the old haunts to see how they’ve weathered. Memories weighs up the effect of AIDS and Giuliani on the days of being wild.
Fun fact lazily taken from IMDB: A gay rights pioneer in Germany, Holger Mischwitzky changed his name to Rosa von Praunheim after the Nazis’ notorious pink triangle.
Postcard to Daddy
From the time he was eight until he reached 16, filmmaker Michael Stock was sexually abused by his father. Now he’s ready to confront the family with the crime, and he’s brought his camera along. Stock not only points fingers. He examines the impact his father’s actions had on his family and tries to figure out why he alone of his siblings was singled out for abuse. Finally, Stock turns the camera on himself.
Fun fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: The postcard was patented in 1861 by Philadelphia printer John P. Charlton.
Red, White & Green
The 2009 Iranian elections became a flashpoint when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration of victory was met with skepticism by supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The people took to the streets for the biggest demonstrations since the Islamic Revolution. Nader Davoodi takes the temperature of the country in the run-up to the voting. Interviewees include director Jafar Panahi (Crimson Gold).
Fun fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: Mousavi’s candidacy ended a 20-year self-imposed exile from public life.
Rock Hudson – Dark and Handsome Stranger
Was there ever a more masculine name than “Rock Hudson”? Born Roy Scherer, Jr., he was the avatar of Hollywood manhood in the 1950s and 1960s, both in Douglas Sirk melodramas and romantic comedies opposite Doris Day. His announcement that he had AIDS blew the lid off one of Tinseltown’s open secrets: Rock was gayer than a maypole convention. Andrew Davies and Andre Schafer (Doris Day Superstar) examine the icon’s impact with the help of Armistead Maupin and Richard Dyer.
Fun fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: In his first film Fighter Squadron, Hudson needed 38 takes to deliver his one line right.
Shtikat Haarchion (A Film Unfinished)
Israeli filmmaker Yael Hersonski puts one of history’s most infamous films on the Moviola. In May 1942, Nazi soldiers spent a month shooting life inside the Warsaw ghetto for Joseph Goebbels. Months later, the residents would be sent to Treblinka. The film was never completed. Hersonski’s investigation tries to determine what was staged, why it was staged, and what it says about the reality of life in the ghetto.
“Fun” fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: The last remaining piece of the ghetto wall can still be seen at ul. Złota 62 in Warsaw.
Vik Muniz repurposes foodstuffs into art that’s been exhibited at New York’s P.S. 1 and museums in Seattle, Miami and Sydney. Lucy Walker’s cameras accompanied him on his latest project, which is to use the discarded materials found in the world’s largest landfill to help the residents of Rio de Janeiro. Muniz is assisted by the eccentric catadores, gleaners extraordinaire.
Fun fact taken from the largest landfill on the Internet, Wikipedia: In 2007, Muniz made portraits out of chocolate for the customers of Neiman-Marcus. A snip at $110,000.
Tamara Trampe and Johann Feindt took their cameras out onto the streets of Berlin to see what they could find. They meet a variety of characters. Some are just passerby. Others have stories to tell, like the man who was born in prison and now works with an American jazz musician. Or the Chechen poet. The filmmakers are particularly interested in the difference between childhood dreams and adult realities.
Fun fact lazily taken from Wikipedia: Participant Apti Bisultanov is a former guerilla fighter and Vice-Premier of Chechnya who has been living in Berlin since 2002.
Tags: A Film Unfinished, Andre Schafer, Andreas Merk, Andrew Davies, Apti Bisultanov., Armistead Maupin, Berlin Film Festival, Crayton Robey, Crimson Gold, Dana International, Doris Day, Doris Day Superstar, Douglas Sirk, Edward Albee, Fighter Squadron, Gay Days, Hazman havarod, Holger Mischwitzky, I Shot My Love, Jafar Panahi, Johann Feindt, John P. Charlton, Joseph Goebbels, Lucy Walker, Lullaby, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Making the Boys, Mart Crowley, Michael Stock, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Nader Davoodi, Natalie Wood, New York Memories, Paper Dolls, Postcard to Daddy, Red White & Green, Richard Dyer, Rock Hudson, Rock Hudson – Dark and Handsome Stranger, Rosa von Praunheim, Shtikat Haarchion, Tamara Trampe, The Boys in the Band, Tomer Heymann, Tony Kushner, Uberleben in New York, Vik Muniz, Waste Land, Wiegenleider, William Friedkin, Yael Hersonski, Yair Qedars