Succeeding Wieland Speck, one of the Berlinale’s most celebrated personalities, is no easy task, but new Panorama head and curator Paz Lázaro appears to be easing into her new position rather painlessly.
Lázaro’s years of experience at Panorama and the sidebar’s trusted team have facilitated the transition. As program manager from 2006 to 2017, Lázaro played a key role in the section’s coordination and film selection, putting together the shortlist of films from which Speck ultimately chose his lineup. Lázaro was, in her words, “Wieland’s last filter.”
New curators Michael Stütz and Andreas Struck, likewise veteran Panorama staffers, are supporting Lázaro in her new post. In addition to coordinating the Berlinale’s Teddy Award queer film prize, Stütz has also served as Panorama’s office manager, program coordinator and Speck’s assistant over the past decade and is now also program manager. Struck has worked for Panorama since the early 1990s in various capacities, including program advisor. He now also oversees editorial and communication work for the section.
“We’ve had a lot of fun working together,” Lázaro says. “We were really thankful for the experience that we had by the time we closed the program. That was a very positive thing.”
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While filling Speck’s shoes remains a challenge, Lázaro’s team approach has put the focus squarely on the films.
“Wieland was one curator. Having three curators changes the program,” Lázaro explains. “The three of us went into deep discussions regarding the program. Something different has to come out of that, when you have three people instead of one.
“When you’re one curator your personality sort of reflects in your program,” she adds. “When you mix in more people it’s less about someone’s special fingerprint and more about the films themselves. We were always very happy about the fact that the discussion was the first step in putting this program together because I think that’s how film works.”
In their inaugural effort, the team has created a lineup that boasts eclectic works from around the globe, new frontiers in international LGBT cinema, a strong showcase of Latin American film, a dash of science fiction and a running theme of resistance to gender discrimination.
Queer films feature throughout most sections of the festival, which is the main goal of the Teddy Awards, “but Panorama remains the heart of the queer program,” says Stütz.
Many of this year’s LGBT films break with convention, according to Lázaro. “They’re not the typical things you connect with queer films. The emancipation of queer film is very important and I think this year it’s the case. In many films the fact that the characters are queer plays no role whatsoever, which is about time. It is what it is. It’s not a topic. I found that extremely wonderful.”
“It’s just a fact and a part of life,” adds Stütz. “What’s great about these films is that they deal with a certain intersectionality, there’s class, there’s race, it’s not just sexual orientation.”
There are also many films with very powerful messages, including protagonists that refuse to be the victim, that are militant and aggressive, Stütz says.
“The program offers thrilling views, views on how you grow up, how you define yourself, how you find yourself and how you fight back,” he explains. “You don’t want to be physically harmed and maybe you even have to defend yourself physically if it’s unavoidable. We have been labeled and victimized on screen for many years, so it’s necessary to fight back now.”
Overall, this year’s program has a little bit of everything, Lázaro says. “There’s something for people who’d rather watch a film that maybe won’t have a theatrical release or from a country that usually you don’t get to see films from, but there’s also science fiction, all kinds of fun and thrilling films and more action from the whole spectrum. We have a really good Panorama, a great window on what’s going on today in the international film industry.”