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Queer film: The Teddy turns 30

The LGBTQ film award is entering its fourth-decade! With screenings of famous Teddy-winners like Dunye’s Watermelon Woman and Julien’s Looking for Langston the Teddy30 retrospective celebrates on Feb 19 during the Berlin International Film Fest.

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“Watermelon Woman”

Thirty has always sounded like a dreadful age for gays, but the world’s premiere LGBTQ film award is charging into its fourth decade with aplomb.

Created in 1987 by then-director of Panorama Manfred Salzgeber and his assistant and eventual successor Wieland Speck, the Teddy had humble beginnings in the Prinz Eisenherz bookshop, where the duo and some friends decided to award a plush teddy bear to contemporary powerhouses Pedro Almodóvar and Gus Van Sant as the makers of the best queer films at the Berlinale that year.

Over time, the award has expanded to cover not just features and shorts, but documentaries and special awards, and transformed into a bronze statuette designed by gay cartoonist Ralf König. And it’s pushed the work of some notable filmmakers: Todd Haynes, Cheryl Dunye, Isaac Julien, Francois Ozon and Marie Losier count the Teddy as a supporter relatively early on in their careers.

To celebrate its birthday, the Teddy looks back into its own history – and beyond. The Teddy30 retrospective shows a smattering of past winners, including Dunye’s Watermelon Woman and Julien’s Looking for Langston, and a sensational selection of those that came before them or deserve revisiting, including 1987’s disturbing, controversial and taboo-testing tale of Nazi paedophilia and revenge, In a Glass Cage. Just as stirring, but perhaps less disturbing, is a remastered version of the world’s first-ever gay film, 1919’s Anders als die Andern – shot here in Berlin. 

And what of this year’s Teddy contenders? The film already on everyone’s lips is Paris 05:59. Whether the sexually explicit real-time drama wins or not, it proves that 30 years on, Teddy films are still making waves – not among scandalised moviegoers, but in the world of critically acclaimed cinema. 

TEDDY AWARDS, Feb 19, 21:00 | Station Berlin, Luckenwalder Str. 4-6, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Gleisdreieck