Now in its 11th incarnation, XPosed International Queer Film Festival has proven itself a steady unicorn. One thing the festival prides itself on (and delivers) is screening a diversity of films you didn't know you needed to see. And this year's four-day film orgy at Moviemento (May 19-22) is no different, delivering hidden gems across all genres. A glance at the programme may not turn up names that are instantly recognizable, but if you've got the queer guts to take a chance on the unknown, you'll find the festival selects some excellent, adventurous stuff.
One top pick is the fest's closing film, Schau mich nicht so an (Don't Look At Me That Way) by Mongolian-German director Uisenma Borchu, whose family emigrated to the GDR when she was four. In addition to directing, Borchu co-stars as Hedi, a woman who gets involved in a tempestuous romantic relationship with her neighbour, a single mother named Iva. Her film delivers a character study of very complex women in different situations, as well as a thrilling exploration of fantasy and reality.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
In my everyday life I've always been very connected to women. In my documentaries, I also concentrated on the lives and pasts of women, watching them in their social lives – especially when they were a bit different. And observing the pressure women are under in society to know who they are and in which box they belong, I could see that they always had that one big problem. I just needed to express these kinds of women.
The film has multiple realities going on – it's almost like watching two films in one.
These are realities which could easily exist. I wanted to make this contrast between two different worlds because it’s something that came out of my own life, something I always experienced myself, being between cultures. And for me, when you think something, sometimes it can be a reality even though it didn’t really happen. These thoughts are very important for people, and it’s something to be taken seriously.
So you wanted to portray two women's psyches through different realities and fantasies.
The film doesn't present a lot of solid facts. So you never get to know what kind of jobs they have, how old they are, all these facts we would normally learn from a film. Instead you just feel insecurities and dishonesty. There are moments when these characters are really feeling something and are acting out of their insecurities, and I wanted that. That’s more important.
Iva and Hedi contrast each other greatly. Are they made up or composites of people you know?
They are people I actually know myself. For Hedi, I know a woman who treated me like that, and Catrina [Stemmer], who plays Iva, also has experiences with people like Hedi. These are not fantasies. It's not that common that a film uses this type of women, but they exist everywhere. It was very interesting for me to play with a character like that. Actually, Hedi is a very tough and strong woman, she is in the process of making another step, but she is still under pressure from what society wants from her. So it’s a kind of disorientation in finding her identity, which Iva must also struggle with.
The name "Hedi" is close to "hedonistic". Is that intentional?
Yeah, I didn’t think about it! She's a person that's not really okay with limits. She wants to explore more, and I also have sides like Hedi in myself, so I could understand that. But the other parts, when she’s so brutal, are very tactless, so bad towards other people. It was kind of funny for me to play this, but you know I had to somehow just let myself go and to feel no restrictions.
Sophia, Iva's daughter, plays a very central role. She’s not just a prop to show that Iva is a single mother. She’s very integral to both of the women’s perspectives on life.
Sophia was something I was always very curious about. I have a child. I had this instinct to get pregnant and make a baby. And it is very important in the life of a woman. It influences your life, and I just wondered how a woman who doesn’t want to have a baby because of other things in her life would feel. I talked to some women who decided not to have kids and they admitted that at some point there is this call, but they pushed these feelings aside. And that does something to you. Sometimes you’re sad, sometimes you’re frustrated, but something happens with your body when you refuse this instinct.
That's what Hedi's going through when she meets Iva and Sophia?
Yeah, it’s something like that. It’s one of the deepest, but also most normal desires of a human being, because we can’t do anything about it – it’s an instinct.
So, is this a lesbian film?
I don’t think it’s something which you can put into a box. In the film Hedi tells Iva, "I’m not lesbian." She doesn’t know what she is. And I think that’s the biggest problem of what they go through. I personally can actually understand why people are fed up of saying, “Yes, I am lesbian,” “Yes, I am homosexual.” Why can’t we love each other? It’s just one aspect of this film.
XPOSED INTERNATIONAL QUEER FILM FESTIVAL, May 19-22 | Moviemento, Kottbusser Damm 22, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schönleinstr. | See website for screening times and full programme