Garden of the Stars is a beautiful lyrical film and is the story of the old St. Matthäus churchyard in Berlin-Schöneberg.. Well, more importantly it is the story of one rather extraordinary man who has made the place his home since he opened his Cemetary Cafe in 2006.
Bernd Boßmann is a psychiatric nurse who came to Berlin in 1984 and came out as gay and became part of the underground queer scene under the pseudonym Ichgola Androgyn , His timing was not so hot as this was the start of the AIDS pandemic, and like many of his close friends Androgyn was soon diagnosed HIV+. Because of the general hysteria about AIDS at the time, many Berliners were refused medical treatment in hospitals and clinics, and Androgyn was part of the group that raised funds to start an HIV Clinic..
A diagnosis in those days was generally accepted as a death sentence so Androgyn had discussions with his friends about being buried together. Most of them dismissed the idea but his best friend (and lover?) OVA welcomed the proposal and that’s why they visited the cemetery in the first place.
In 2005 after Ova died and Androgyn visited the cemetery on a very regular basis, he became more aware of a derelict building just inside the gates. He claims it was calling him to fix it up, and so he did just that, and hence his quirky cafe and flower shop was born.
Androgyn has a natural serenity about him which combined with his nonchalant humility exudes a quiet passion for people. He is, he declares not a therapist, but just a human being …….but we can see he is an extraordinary one at that. Now a certified undertaker he provides the first ever services for stillborn children and has devoted a family friendly special area in the Cemetery that he has named Garden of the Stars .
When people objected to the fact that as so many AIDS victims were buried there that the cemetery was becoming ‘gay’ Androgyn matter-of-fact responded that there is no such thing as sexuaity in death. And if people objected to how nice ‘gay’ graves are, he told them there was nothing stopping them from making their loved ones resting homes looking pretty too.
As the Cemetery is in fact located right next to Berlin’s main gay area, it seemed perfectly fitting there is a Memorial to all those who lost their lives through AIDS.
Androgyn’s position at the Cemetery is not in any official capacity, it’s simply that he has found where he belongs. As well as running the Cafe and being the Custodian of the Garden, he is happy to give tours to groups of school children. Equally important for him is sharing his own personal enlightened approach to death itself, which like this entire wee film is both refreshing and uplifting.
The Brothers Grimm are also buried there in the Cemetery and filmmakers Pasquale PlastinoStéphane Riethauser have used “Godfather Death” (Der Gevatter Tod) one of their Fairy Stories as a narrative for the film.
Released in 2017 this 1 hour film never appeared on our radar until now.. It’s an enchanting tale about an enchanting place where we, like so many others, would love to finally rest in peace.
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