In 1971, I saw Rosa von Praunheim’s It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives and that’s when I realized that film can do incredible things. It excites you, makes you reflect, and pushes you onto the street. Aesthetics and politics come together.
Speck, as quoted in the interview “Film is a Means to Change Things,” Tagesspiegel, 02/07/2019
BiographyWieland Speck was born in 1951 and grew up in Freiburg im Breisgau. At the age of 19 he moved to Berlin, where he studied German language and literature, theatre studies, and ethnology at the Free University. Later, he would study film at the San Francisco Art Institute. While still a student in Germany, in 1974, Speck founded the publishing house mann-o-mann, which specialized in print media related to men’s and gay emancipation. During this period he also worked on his first videos and appeared as an actor and performer. In 1976, he became the director of Tali, an independent arthouse theater in Berlin-Kreuzberg (today’s Moviemento), which he led for three years.
In 1981, after studying film in the United States, Speck shot his first short film, David, Montgomery, and I, and presented it at the Berlinale. Just one year later, he assumed organizational and artistic management of the festival’s Panorama section as the assistant to program director Manfred Salzgeber, the founder of the independent distributor of queer films Edition Salzgeber. In 1985, alongside his work at the Berlinale, Speck made his first feature film, Westler, whose screenplay he also wrote. This award-winning debut film is a love story between an East and a West Berliner in divided Germany.
Together with Salzgeber, in 1987, Speck initiated the Teddy Award as the Berlinale’s queer film prize, worldwide the first queer film award to be presented by an A-list festival. In 1992, when Salzgeber (1943-1994) fell ill with AIDS, Speck became program director of Panorama and a member of the selection committee for the Berlinale competition. In this position, he was committed to queer cinema for 25 years and put his own artistic career on hold for most of it. His film Escape to Life: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story, a docufiction film co-directed with Andrea Weiss, was released in 2000.
After stepping down from his position at the Berlinale, Speck remains dedicated to the festival as a consultant and curator of special programs. In 2018, he organized the retrospective program 20 Years of Panorama Audience Awards and, in 2019, together with then Panorama director Andreas Struck, Panorama40. Rosa von Praunheim paid tribute to Speck’s work with the film Mit Speck fängt man Filme (“How to Catch Films with Speck”) in 2012.
Speck also serves as a jury member and program consultant for various international film festivals, as a member of film grant committees, and is a frequent speaker at film schools such as the HFF in Munich or the Filmakademie Ludwigsburg.
At the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, Wieland Speck was one of the first gay directors in Germany to make safer-sex films, which were shown before porn films on videotape and in adult theaters. He also toured Germany with the first educational films about AIDS. He is the long-time director of the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival, where he offers queer filmmakers from all over the world a forum for their work. A courageous and important man.
Rosa von Praunheim, 2012