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LGBT pride | © Ben_Kreckx/Pixabay
LGBT pride | © Ben_Kreckx/Pixabay
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A LGBT Film Lover's Guide to Berlin

Picture of Megan King
Updated: 3 June 2017
In the notorious 1920s, Germany’s capital had an active, thriving gay subculture. It all came to an oppressive halt in 1933 however, with the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime. West Berlin, an island floating in the communist sea of East Germany, was able to reorganise itself into a LGBT haven once again under the GDR, and today, the LGBT scene in Berlin continues to play an important role. Here are some of the crucial films that pay tribute to LGBT Berlin.

Coming Out

This legendary film premiered at the height of the gay movement in West Berlin, which happened to be the same night as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Directed by Heiner Carow, it tells the story of a young teacher living in East Berlin who is struggling to comes to terms with his homosexuality.

My Wonderful West Berlin

The freedoms of the Berlin today – its expression, openness and diversity – are rooted in former West Berlin, and this film (Mein wunderbares West-Berlin in German) pays tribute to the queer safe haven of the west. It takes viewers on a fascinating journey through queer time; from the suffering of the 1950s and 60s, to the re-emergence of a subculture with bars, clubs and sexual freedom in the 1970s, and the pioneering gay right movements.

The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant

Released in 1972, The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant in German) was directed by prominent German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The film is based on the director’s own play, where he employs an all-female cast and explores the shifting dynamics of the character, Petra von Kant, and her relationships with other women.

Girls in Uniform

Released in 1931, this film (Mädchen in Uniform in German) holds a significant place in LGBT culture as the first explicitly lesbian, and pro-lesbian film to come out. It follows the life of a young girl who is sent to boarding school, and her trials and struggles with loss as she falls in love with her young teacher. The film was directed by Géza von Radványi and is based on a play written by Christa Winsloe.

Where Are You Going, Habibi?

This 2015 comedy drama (Wo willst du hin, Habibi? in German) tells the story of a unique friendship between a young gay, Turkish-born man and a blond, blue-eyed German criminal. Directed by Tor Iben, it offers a fresh and relevant perspective of queer Berlin the huge Turkish population that make up the city.

Desire Will Set You Free

Filmed around Berlin’s classic nighttime haunts including Berghain, Desire Will Set you Free deals with modern queer Berlin, the party scene, and how it is intertwined. It is the second feature from director Yony Leyser, presenting a culture of wild partying, hedonistic debauchery and sex without limits. The cast is made of up people mostly playing their own real-life characters, adding a documentary element to the film.

LGBT cinemas and festivals

Berlin is undoubtedly the queer capital of Europe, where people arrive to be free, experimental and can safely depart from the heterosexual norms of dominant society. There is a lot in the film industry to celebrate this, starting with the prestigious Berlinale Film Festival that takes place every February. The festival even has a Queer Film Award, known as Teddy. The Xposed Queer Film Festival, taking place in May, is an intimate, independent film festival held at Moviemento.

Berlinale Palast along Marlene Dietrich Platz, a famous and openly lesbian actress in 1920s Berlin
Berlinale Palast along Marlene Dietrich Platz, a famous and openly lesbian actress in 1920s Berlin | © sebaso/ Flickr

Moviemento in Kreuzberg is one of Germany’s oldest cinemas and has a strong allegiance to the LGBT scene in Berlin. They also run a film series called CIMA BERLIN that promotes integration among gay refugees with a penchant for the theatre.

Kino Moviemento, Kottbusser Damm 22, Berlin, Germany