Film & Video
3 min

Berlinale preview 2015: The gay documentaries

Our Berlin International Film Festival preview concludes with a look at docs

The Yes Men Are Revolting follows the lives of two activists, known as The Yes Men, as they deal with the balance between activism and daily life. 

Documentaries are always a major component of the Berlin International Film Festival. A large number of the docs this year deal with LGBT content from around the world, showcasing a wide variety of queer topics and lives. Biographies of gay and lesbian icons (including German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and American choreographer and director Yvonne Rainer) are prominent at this year’s fest. The lineup also includes Daniel’s World, one of the more controversial films of the last several years, which profiles an avowed pedophile.

Daniel’s World (Danieluv Svet)
Czech Republic, 2014
Directed by Veronika Lisková

One of the festival’s most controversial films, Daniel’s World is a frank profile of 25-year-old Daniel, an admitted — though staunchly non-physically practicing — pedophile. Produced (rather shockingly) for Czech television, the doc offers a non-judgmental look at an affliction that’s little understood by mainstream society and has never before been made so openly visible.

Dear John
Austria, 2014
Directed by Hans Scheugl

Austrian director Hans Scheugl looks back on his half-century-old romance with an American named John, who nearly enticed Scheugl to immigrate to the United States. Having long since lost contact with John, the director tries to locate him and imagines what his life might have been like had he let the romance blossom.

Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands (Fassbinder: Lieben ohne zu Fordern)
Denmark, 2015
Directed by Christian Braad Thomsen

Danish director Christian Braad Thomsen profiles his friend Rainer Werner Fassbinder, one of Germany’s (and the world’s) most important and prolific directors of the post–Second World War period. Fassbinder died in 1982 at just 37 years old. Combining personal memories, interviews from the 1970s that Thomsen conducted with Fassbinder and his mother, and contemporary interviews with other friends of Fassbinder, the documentary gives new insight into a flame that burned too bright and its enduring impact.

Feelings Are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer
USA, 2015
Directed by Jack Walsh
A revolutionary in the worlds of both modern dance and film, Yvonne Rainer came out as a lesbian at the age of 56 and in 1997 won her own Teddy Award at the Berlinale for the lesbian love story MURDER and murder. Melding film clips and reinterpretations of Rainer choreographies, Feelings Are Facts offers an intimate look at the 80-year-old artist.

Switzerland/Romania, 2014
Directed by Nicolas Cilins

This mid-length documentary profiles Adi and Florin, two illegal Romanian migrants working as escorts in Geneva bars. The two young men reenact their experiences and share their dreams of a brighter future.

Prison System 4614 (Haftanlage 4614)
Germany, 2015
Directed by Jan Soldat

German director Jan Soldat profiles Arwed and Dennis and the fetish prison camp they’ve created for those who want to be bullied and victimized. During their weeklong stay at the prison, guests have their wildest bondage fantasies played out through elaborate — but always safe — roleplaying.

USA, 2015
Directed by Jannik Splidsboel

Danish director Jannik Splidsboel profiles Tulsa, Oklahoma’s only gay and lesbian youth centre and follows the lives of three of its young queer members, Ben, Larissa and “D.”

My Name Is Annemarie Schwarzenbach (Je Suis Annemarie Schwarzenbach)
France, 2015
Directed by Véronique Aubouy

Beautiful globetrotting lesbian writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach was one of the brightest figures in the bohemian world of Weimar-era Germany. She died at 34 and her work was largely forgotten after the Second World War until being rediscovered and republished in the 1980s. French director Véronique Aubouy profiles Schwarzenbach in both documentary and dramatic segments, using young actors to portray the writer and some of her friends and lovers.

The New Man (El Hombre Nuevo)
Uruguay/Chile, 2015
Directed by Aldo Garay

Using more than 20 years of collected footage, director Aldo Garay presents a portrait of Stephanía, who, after decades of supporting revolutionary political struggles as a man, is now fighting to be accepted as a woman by Uruguayan society and her family.

The Yes Men Are Revolting
USA/Germany/France/Denmark/Netherlands, 2014
Directed by Laura Nix, Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos

This third documentary about guerrilla activist duo The Yes Men (famed for their bold and humorous high-profile impersonations of important figures) follows members Mike Bonanno (who’s straight) and Andy Bichlbaum (who’s gay) as they balance their impulses toward activism with the pressures of their own maturing lives.