Gay icons power Berlin's Panorama

Van Sant, Hurt, Dallesandro topline sidebar's 30th edition

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MUNICH -- The Berlin International Film Festival's Panorama art house sidebar is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and organizers have programmed an intricate lattice of cinematic events to mark the occasion.

One pair of films succeeds in weaving together the Panorama's threefold goal: premiering debut works by eclectic directors, finding successful films with serious political content and becoming the go-to international festival for gay and lesbian-themed cinema.

In 1985, Panorama (then known as "Info-Schau") presented the international premiere of Robert Epstein's Oscar-winning documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk," the same year it screened Gus van Sant's directorial debut "Mala Noche." This year, van Sant's Oscar-nominated biopic "Milk" will be shown side by side with Epstein's film, bringing both van Sant's Panorama career and the assassinated San Francisco mayor's cinematic story full circle.

A similar web of artists and themes creates what Panorama organizers are dubbing "the John Hurt tryptych."

Hurt has played flamboyant writer Quentin Crisp twice, first garnering fame both for himself and Crisp in Jack Gold's BAFTA-winning "The Naked Civil Servant" (1975). That seminal work will be shown alongside Richard Laxton's latest effort, "An Englishman in New York," in which Hurt portrays Crisp during his later years in the Big Apple. The title comes from a pop hit by Sting, who co-starred with Hurt and Crisp himself in Jonathan Nossiter's directorial debut "Resident Alien," which premiered at the Panorama in 1990 and will complete the trio.

In addition to Milk and Crisp, a third gay icon will be honored at this year's 30th Panorama anniversary: Joe Dallesandro, the cult fave actor immortalized in a verse of Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side," on the cover of the Rolling Stones' album "Sticky Fingers," in a photo by Andy Warhol and as the star of Paul Morrissey's "Flesh" (1968).

Dallesandro had a major role in Catherine Breillat's first release, 1980s "Tapage nocturne" (Nocturnal Uproar), which will be screened for the Panorama anniversary along with Breillat's latest film, "Bluebeard." Dallesandro is the recipient of this year's special TEDDY gay film award at the Berlinale and will travel to Berlin to accept the award and attend the premiere of "Little Joe," Nicole Haeusser's documentary portrait of him.

There's yet another anniversary afoot at this year's Panorama: the 10th presentation of the sidebar's audience award, the Panorama Publikums Preis. All the winning films of the past decade will be screened to celebrate one of the international film festival circuit's most highbrow audience prizes.

But the Panorama has always been about the future of film, so with 13 directorial debuts and 35 world premieres out of a total 48 films, this year's slate is just as likely as any to provide a nugget or two for the Panorama's 40th anniversary special... or 50th ... or 60th ...