Film Reviews

Review: ‘My Wonderful West Berlin’

Inside Out 2017


My Wonderful West Berlin (Mein wunderbares West-Berlin)
(Germany, 97 min.)
Dir. Jochen Hick

Paragraph 175 in the German Criminal Code made intimate acts between people of the same gender illegal and was vigorously utilised by the Third Reich. While the Nazi regime was abolished after the War, paragraph 175 continued as the law for several decades.

My Wonderful West Berlin reveals the LGBTQ community that developed and flourished in post war West Berlin despite homophobic laws and public prejudice. While having a reputation as one of the most liberal and inclusive European cities, West Berlin only gradually grew into its image as being overwhelmingly tolerant towards the LGBTQ youth who left their homes in search of change and acceptance. Jochen Hick’s documentary features multiple representatives of West Berlin’s LGBTQ community–filmmakers, artists, designers, comedians and many more–who share their experiences of West Berlin starting from 1950s. Through their memories, we see the city transform from having a rich yet repressed underground queer life in the ‘60s, into accepting the radical gay movements in the ‘70s but then overlooking at first the tragic AIDS epidemic in the ‘80s. Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, there emerged the queer communes and leather jackets, sex revolution and the establishment of West Berlin Homosexual Campaign. My Wonderful West Berlin virtually educates one about the uncharted depth of the city’s LGBTQ chronicle.

Combining carefully selected archival footage with first hand interviews, Hick’s documentary shapes a chronological celebration of the community, which has strived not only for recognition and acceptance but also for its right to be seen as political and historical. The ending, containing an aching memory of the AIDS victims, indubitably feels as a salient and assertive refusal of any further ostracism.

My Wonderful West Berlin screens at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival on Saturday, June 3 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.