July 2010


On Visiting Entzaubert at the Schwarzer Kanal Berlin

Awhile back, before moving to Berlin, Yelli at 50% of my DNA gave me the heads up for a queer film festival. I saved the email and promptly forgot about it until last Thursday when I read it, read the links, and realized that Entzaubert: Queer D.I.Y. International Film Festival began that evening.

Both Thursday and Saturday evenings I caught films at the festival, and, strictly speaking, both times I was clueless about what films were being shown. It was only Thursday that I was surprised to find myself walking into a clearing in the woods where a shelter, of sorts, had been put up to show films during the day, plus a larger outdoor screen for late evening film watching, once the sun went down.

I never made it to the late evening showings because the prospect of trying to get home close to midnight from an area lacking great public transit options did not appeal to me.

There are two paths I could go down: one is a philosophical discussion about the Schwarzer Kanal Berlin, which I’ll admit I am not fully prepared for, or reviewing each film. Both appeal to me for a number of reasons—the former because Schwarzer Kanal Berlin is a great place to start a discussion about diversity of opinion, experience, and philosophy; and the latter because each film deserves a moment in the sunshine.

Actually I will do both, but the former, talking about Schwarzer Kanal Berlin, will wait for another day. Talking about movies is why I started this blog post and my feelings about the Schwarzer Kanal Berlin are a lot more complicated and difficult to explain.

Each day was divided into a series of thematic blocks, each block consisting of a number of films that may (or may not) fit that theme. I arrived Thursday toward the end of the Gender Fluidity block, and because I was standing outside the shelter and whatever was showing was dark, I couldn’t see anything. I believe that what was showing (according to the program) was The Multitude is Feverish, an 18-minute film from Germany in English. There’s nothing I can say about it because I only heard part of the film.

After that was a block on southern Africa consisting of two films, “Forbidden Fruit” and “Simon and I”. Both films were interesting: Forbidden Fruit is a half hour drama about two women falling in love, and the consequences thereof, in Zimbabwe. Suffice it to say, not good. As I understand it, from later discussion, the film was set up strangely because at least one of the actresses (if not both, I forget the details) who were going to play the lesbian leads dropped out of the film at the last minute, leaving one woman with little acting experience to play both parts, hopping around in front of the camera to play the different roles. Whatever the excuse, it’s still a charming and interesting film.

Simon and I was a more complicated film on a number of levels: Bev Ditsie, a longtime lesbian activist in South Africa, spends the better portion of an hour discussing her life and that of Simon Nkoli, a gay activist who was on the front lines as well. Simon was, at one point, one of 22 anti-apartheid activists in the Delmas Treason Trial and it was at that time he came out of the closet. He was also HIV+. Their relationship is complicated and the film is complicated: she visits Simon about a week before he dies and they are reminiscing—with one very cheap shot at Simon resulting. Simon apparently never really expressed to Bev what he thought of her, and she wanted him to say that she was great, or something, so while a video is playing, Simon is reading an older newspaper article that quotes him and he is pleased about it while ignoring Bev appearing on TV. It was a cheap shot because Simon was clearly incapacitated by AIDS related illnesses, on the verge of dying, and had regressed to a more childlike state. I was suddenly uncomfortable, much the way I felt when a totally with it Michael Moore visited a mentally incapacitated Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine.

That doesn’t change the fact that Simon and I is a powerful and interesting documentary that looks at how South Africa managed to include protection for sexual orientation in its post-Apartheid constitution. This achievement is something that stands in stark contrast to the achievements of Poland in its post-Communist era, a contrast that stands out because of a later film.

The following block, Fighting Back Around the World, continued where the previous film left off: southern Africa, only moving up the coast to Nambia. Forgotten Survivors, a 26-minute film, looked at LGBTI people and the violence they have suffered as a result of who they are. It was, as you might imagine, depressing as it was informing. Police don’t care and society ignores individual human rights if the individuals in question do not conform to a greater consistency.

This was continued with the world premier of The Moral Revolution, an excellent film made by Diana Voxerbrant. She’s Swedish with Polish roots, although I never quite determined if she is a dual citizen or if she’s merely Swedish and intensely proud of her Polish heritage. It doesn’t really matter though because she goes to Poland and talks to people on both sides of the fence and while queers fear, the majority is proud of their hatred for queers and of their Catholic roots. One young man states that if he were Dutch he would be tolerant, but because he is Polish he isn’t.

The filmmaker manages to interview Lech Wałęsa, leader of Solidarity and the first post-Communist president of Poland: this is disturbing because he doesn’t support equality for all. He doesn’t support allowing sexual minorities the right to try and improve their rights. This stands in such stark contrast to the story out of South Africa, a country that embraced its rainbow and embraced all its citizens regardless. It left me feeling cold about Poland, a feeling I’ve oft had before, and it reinforced my position that I will not spend significant amounts of money in the country: homophobic countries do not deserve my tourist Euros.

I left at the end of the film because the next film did not really appeal to me and because I had no plans on staying for the film that started at 10pm. Friday I was unable to make the festival, so I did not return until Saturday, when I arrived just in time to see the last two films in the Queer Resistance Now block, Queer Rebel: Let Us Live How We Want, and Belgrade Flashmob.

The former was a film about the Schwarzer Kanal Berlin and its recent move (more on that in a later blog post), and the later lasted less than two minutes and I can honestly say that I don’t remember a single second of it. It came right at the end of the Queer Rebel film and I remember thinking it was disjointed and strange, but it never dawned on me that it was a separate film.

The next block, Migration from ‘Here’ to Istanbul, consisted of four films about migration and its effects. The first, Know Your Rights!, was a multilingual, but only subtitled in English (although my link only has German subtitles), film about how illegal immigrants in Germany can protect their rights even if they are working without documents. The main story, other than people reading sentences, or fragments thereof, aloud consisted of a short, non-white Spanish-speaking maid being forced to work late for her tall, white, German-speaking mistress who then proceeded to underpay her for her work. I think it was shown because its fundamentally a liberal position that illegals have rights and because it was put out by Ver.di, the left wing trade  union in Germany. There didn’t seem to be any queer content to it.

The second film, Here, was about five migrants to Edinburgh talking about their experiences as migrants in Scotland. The women (and I think they were all women) had a minimum number of Scottish friends, but lots of other migrant friends. The film felt, to me, a bit choppy and not completely well thought out, other than the end where each one of the five has to stop and think about the number of Scottish friends they have. As I recall all five come up with the number two.

The third film was “rachki” which was confusing and random with the sole redeeming featuring being that it was short, but not short enough at 4 minutes and 47 seconds.

The fourth, and final film, in the block was Metropol Sürgünleri, a Turkish/Kurdish language film about gentrification and its effects in Istanbul. Unfortunately for me it was only translated into German and it went too fast for me to understand. I was bored for most of the film.

The next block was entitled Genderfiction Science Trash and it started with Barbarella vs. Flash Gordon. As I look back at the program, it was 8 minutes long and I can remember watching the film but I really do not remember what happened in it.

This was followed by an amusing film, Robot Boi & the Amazing Plant People!, in which robots struggle against plant people. Strange, surreal, super.

Next was The Adventures of Iron Pussy 3, which, to be honest, started well, but then about 20 minutes in totally lost me. I can’t be sure, but I’m under the impression that I wasn’t the only person who felt that the last 10 minutes were a bit perplexing.

This was followed by Statues and Magic, which took ordinary statues and put pussies on them. Cute. Fun. Short.

The last film in the block was Moralist Instruction Musical: the Revolutionary Conduct. Four superheros opposing sexism and fascism show off their fighting techniques when encountering gender oppression. It was cute, but I felt a bit extreme. Perhaps even too aggressive in some places.

I left after this because the idea of Femmes and Heroes did not really appeal to me (one film title: My Happy Menstruation). There were some more films on Sunday and I thought about returning, but I never quite made it.

Next year though…

3 comments to On Visiting Entzaubert at the Schwarzer Kanal Berlin

  • Prashanth

    your blog has become big stressbuster for me! ThanQ Adam!!
    (writing from a jena bound ice, while trying to make sense of what is a ‘immobilienpacht’)

  • Your review does not make me want to see any of these shows. Nor. for that matter, to attend the festival. Was that the intention?

  • Prashanth- Glad to hear. I hope that I continue to keep you entertained while you commute.

    starman1695 – Some of the films were good! I said as much 🙂 As for attending the film festival? It’s definitely an alternative queer film festival.