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Why LGBT film awards matter

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LGBT film awards - The Teddy Award

Why LGBT film awards matter

LGBT film awards - The Teddy Award
The importance of having diverse movies as showcased by LGBT films can be seen in movies in general and how they shape our lives– and LGBT film awards help bring this about.

This can be seen at the recent Teddy Award of the Berlin International Film Festival (or Berlinale) when Dutch filmmaker Reijer Zwaan presented his documentary Strike a Pose, about Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour dancers.

Twenty-five years ago, Zwaan had been fascinated with the dancers when he had first seen them in a documentary as a child: “I was 11 years old when I saw the film in Amsterdam. I remember how inspiring it was to see a group of gay guys so open, proud and cool, on the road with Madonna.”

“At the premiere in Berlin, many audience members expressed how because of the dancers, they came out or dared to be themselves, and it was really touching to hear that,” Zwaan said of his own documentary, which he co-directed with Ester Gould.

LGBT film awards: The Teddy at 30

The Teddy Award, which recently commemorated its 30th year with a ‘Teddy30’ retrospective, was the first LGBT film award to be set up in 1987.

Regarded as the most prestigious and prominent international LGBT film award, the idea behind it were two German filmmakers: Wieland Speck and Manfred Salzgeber.

Speaking at the ‘Teddy30’ retrospective, Speck said: ““Thirty years ago, we did not even anticipate to be around for so long. For many of us were dying of AIDS exactly then—and the same group gathering today for this summit was merely 15 people strong. But it was the first jury for the first Teddy Award.”

Presented by an independent jury as an official award of the Berlinale, the Teddy Award deals with the crucial issue of LGBTQ visibility and encourages the development of an LGBTQ film movement.

More importantly, the LGBT films that are presented at the Teddy Award aren’t segregated from those offered at the Berlinale but are part of their broader line-up.

LGBT film awards: LGBT films go mainstream

Being part of an important mainstream international award like the Berlinale serves an important purpose.

Because of the Berlinale, other film organizers in cities as well as prominent international film festivals like Cannes and Venice also now offer LGBTQ film awards yearly.

The Venice International Film Festival has the ‘Queer Lion’ Award which goes to the best movie with LGBT themes and queer culture. Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival has the ‘Queer Palm’ Award for best LGBT-relevant movies.

“You had to set up something that worked for the mainstream view– that the mainstream culture could recognize what you do,” said Speck.

LGBT film awards: Independent LGBT film bodies

Thirty years after the first Teddy Award was given out, progress in raising LGBT visibility can now be seen in the slew of LGBT film festivals and awards like Outfest’s Outie Awards, GALECA’s Dorian Awards, GLAAD Media Awards, and LGBT festivals in different cities around the world.

“We’re lucky to live in a time when there is much more visibility than, let’s say, 25 years ago, but many kids still grow up without seeing many gay people they can look up to or respect,’ Zwaan told Slate.

“We’re lucky that it’s moving in the right direction, but it’s also not something to take for granted,” he added.

LGBT film awards: Diversity in views

Meanwhile, Speck noted that the LGBT community should never be seen as homogenous group and filmmakers who disagree with having an LGBT award or festival is normal.

These filmmakers argue that this type of awards and festivals shouldn’t exist as they promote ghettoization.

However, Speck respectfully disagrees: “When you fight for rights, you always fight for people who are not fighting and yet will profit from it later. This is automatic. You fight for people that you might not even like. I mean, you have LGBTQ bankers now who can call themselves ‘gay’ in everyday life and marry, but they never did anything to fight for that. That’s just the way it is.”

In response to the same criticisms, 2015 Cannes Queer Palm jury president Desiree Akhavan also said: “In queer cinema, I found confidence in myself and strength while I was coming out and tried to understand what being gay meant and how it would influence my life.”

More than this reflection of the diversity of the films, awards, and festivals, LGBT film awards show a reflection of those watching these movies– especially the younger LGBT generations who will grow up having a better idea of who they are.


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