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Jenni Olson to Receive Berlinale’s Special Teddy Award for Making “Queer Film History Visible & Tangible”

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Jenni Olson will honored with this year’s special Teddy Award during the Berlin Film Festival. The film curator, archivist, writer, filmmaker, and community builder will receive the award during the Teddy Award livestream ceremony on June 18, a press release announced.

The Berlinale’s queer film award, the Teddy recognizes “films and people who foster a heightened awareness of queer topics across the board and thus contribute to a greater tolerance, acceptance, solidarity, and equality in society,” the release details. “In addition to the awards for current films, the Teddy Foundation also presents the Special Teddy Award for outstanding achievement and long-term service to a figure from the creative industries whose work has made an exceptional contribution to a wide-scale public perception and reception of queer perspectives in art, culture, and the media.”

Previous recipients of the honor include Tilda Swinton, Ulrike Ottinger, Monika Treut, Christine Vachon, and Elfi Mikesch.

A widely recognized leader and pioneer of LGBTQ cinema, Olson has been an advocate for LGBTQ films and filmmakers for over three decades. She is receiving the Special Teddy Award in honor of “her decades of bridge-building work with which she has made queer film history visible and tangible.”

Olson’s two 16mm feature-length essay films — 2005’s “The Joy of Life” and 2015’s “The Royal Road” — premiered at Sundance Film Festival. In 2020 her work as a filmmaker and her collection of LGBTQ film prints and memorabilia were acquired by the Harvard Film Archive. The Criterion Channel also launched a retrospective of her work last year. Her exploration of the last 30 years of LGBTQ film history in “The Oxford Handbook of Queer Cinema” will arrive from Oxford University Press later this year.

Currently the co-director of The Bressan Project, which is devoted to restoring and re-releasing the films of pioneering gay filmmaker Arthur J. Bressan, Jr., Olson’s work as film historian includes “The Queer Movie Poster Book,” published by Chronicle Books in 2005.  She has served as a consulting producer and archival producer and researcher on dozens of projects including the 2020 HBO Max LGBTQ history series “Equal.”

A former co-director of Frameline’s San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, the oldest and largest queer film festival, Olson co-founded the pioneering LGBTQ online platform PlanetOut.com as well as the Queer Brunch at Sundance. The 2018 MacDowell Fellow is now in development on her third feature-length essay film, “The Quiet World,” and an essayistic memoir of the same name.

“Being honored with such a prestigious recognition as the Teddy Award is incredibly meaningful to me. I’ve been part of the LGBTQ film eco-system for more than 30 years and have worked in virtually every realm — as a festival programmer; a film critic; in distribution, releasing, PR and marketing; as an archivist and historian; as a producer and filmmaker advisor; and of course as a filmmaker myself,” Olson told Women and Hollywood. “While pursuing all of these passions I’ve also always tried more than anything to find ways to connect my colleagues with one another and to elevate the field of queer cinema. In this regard, I’m especially proud of having co-founded the Queer Brunch at Sundance and of creating various professional resources as part of PlanetOut.com’s PopcornQ (and now we have the PQ Professionals Facebook group).”

The multi-hyphenate remarked, “It’s interesting to reflect back on the evolution of queer cinema since 1987 (when I began my career by writing film reviews for the local gay paper and starting a lesbian and gay film series called Lavender Images at the University of Minnesota). Obviously we’ve come a long way — especially in terms of the quantity of LGBTQ representations on screen. At the same time, I think it’s also pretty obvious that there is also so much more progress to be made. It will always be a reality that we need to urge ‘Hollywood’ and the film world in general to do better at producing and releasing and supporting more films that reflect the experiences and interests of a diverse array of viewers and audiences. I don’t think that will ever change. And of course, we all need to continue advocating for those changes anyway in the belief that anything is possible,” she emphasized.

The 35th Teddy Award ceremony will be exclusively online, and livestreamed on June 18 at 7 p.m. Berlin time (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT) during the 71st Berlinale’s Summer Special festival, taking place June 9-20. It can be viewed live at teddyaward.tv/live.

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