Sex tape satire 'Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn' wins Berlinale

Deborah COLE
·4 min read

The 71st Berlin film festival awarded its Golden Bear top prize Friday to "Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn" by Romania's Radu Jude, a satire skewering pandemic-era social hypocrisy with the story of a teacher whose sex tape winds up on the internet.

This year's Berlinale was held entirely online for critics and industry buyers but judged by a jury made up of previous winners, who watched the 15 contenders in a specially reserved cinema.

Israeli director Nadav Lapid announced the award for Jude, one of Eastern Europe's most acclaimed film-makers, saying his movie succeeded in "provoking the spirit of our time... by slapping it, by challenging it to a duel".

Jude later told reporters that as pleased as he was about the award, "I'm more happy that nobody got sick" while filming during the coronavirus outbreak.

"We proved that we could do it respecting the people and putting their health above art."

The festival awarded its first "gender neutral" best acting prize, to Germany's Maren Eggert for her performance in the sci-fi comedy "I'm Your Man".

In the film by "Unorthodox" director Maria Schrader, Eggert plays an antiquities researcher who signs up to test a humanoid robot, played by British actor Dan Stevens from "Downton Abbey" using his fluent German, as a romantic partner.

The runner-up best film gong went to Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi whose "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy" is made up of three stories of women looking for connection in modern-day Tokyo.

- Summer gala ceremony? -

Maria Speth's German documentary "Mr Bachmann and His Class", about an empathetic teacher on the cusp of retirement who takes pupils from a range of immigrant backgrounds under his wing, claimed the third-place jury prize.

Hungary's Denes Nagy clinched best director for "Natural Light", a harrowing drama about an atrocity committed by Hungarian soldiers in the Soviet Union during World War II.

Prolific South Korean film-maker Hong Sang-soo, who won the Berlinale's best director prize last year, was awarded best screenplay for couples drama "Introduction", set partly in Berlin.

Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios's Netflix feature "A Cop Movie", which mixes documentary and narrative techniques to look at the struggles of police work in the country's capital, won a Silver Bear for artistic contribution.

Last year's winner, dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, took part in the current jury, watching the films from Tehran under house arrest.

The festival's organisers hope to hold a gala awards ceremony in June if pandemic conditions permit.

- 'Vintage John Waters' -

"Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn", part of Romanian cinema's vaunted new wave, makes the case that corruption, pettiness and discrimination are more obscene than graphic sex.

Opening with an extremely real-looking hardcore porn video, it was perhaps the most daring of this year's films in competition.

The clip is taken from a home movie the teacher, Emi, shot with her husband that makes its way from PornHub to the mobile phones of her colleagues, students and their parents.

With disputes over social distancing and mask wearing already jacking up tensions and exposing social divisions, Emi fights to save her job and her reputation.

The showdown reaches a farcical climax The Hollywood Reporter called "worthy of vintage John Waters".

"Many of the things that Emi's accused of are things that I was accused of in online comments regarding my previous films," Jude told AFP during the festival.

He revamped the premise to incorporate coronavirus, which he said had created more "aggressiveness" in Romanian society.

Rather than push back production, "my take was to do it as soon as possible and adapt to what is around", including casting anti-vaxxers in minor roles and choosing novelty coronavirus masks like "costumes".

"I wanted it to feel contemporary and if there's this pandemic going now why not include it in the film," he said.

Asked about its explicit scenes, producer Ada Solomon told reporters that Jude was working on creating a "censored version" that "stays consistent with the vision of the film".

Beyond the competition, the Berlinale also saw the premiere of a two-hour documentary about Tina Turner, with the music legend telling in her own words her story of triumph over poverty and abuse.