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Schipper's 'Victoria' victorious at German Lolas

Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria was the big winner at this year’s German Film Awards, taking home six statuettes from its seven nominations including the Golden Lolas for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Lead Actor.

Schipper’s one-shot thriller set during a breathless night on the streets of Berlin also picked up Lolas for the Spanish actress Laia Costa, the title character, and the Danish cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen.

Victoria premiered in the Berlinale’s main competition last February where Grøvlen received a Silver Bear, was released in German cinemas on 11 June and is being handled internationally by The Match Factory.

The Silver Lola for Best Film was awarded by the members of the German Film Academy to Edward Berger’s social-realist drama Jack, with the Bronze Lola going to Johannes Naber’s black comedy Age Of Cannibals which deservedly also received the Lola for Best Screenplay for the searing dialogues by the author Stefan Weigl.

Both Jack and Age of Cannibals had their world premieres durng the 2014 Berlinale.

International note

Another international note was struck at the ceremony in Berlin on Friday evening apart from the Lolas for Victoria’s lead actress and DoP when the Golden Lola for Best Documentary went to this year’s Oscar winner Citizenfour by the Berlin-based US documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.

The award came almost two years to the day after the US whistleblower Edward Snowden left Hong Kong on a plane in the direction of Moscow on June 23, 2013.

In her acceptance speech, Poitras pointed out that she had to leave her own country to make this film, but thanked colleagues in Germany, and particularly in Berlin, for providing her with a “safe space” to work as well as the Hamburg-based Der Spiegel for reporting on the affair.

“My country is on the wrong side of history and I hope Germany will lead the way to provide political asylum for Edward Snowden,” she concluded to applause from the 1,800-strong audience in Berlin’s Palais am Funkturm.

From Rico to Til

The first film in The Pasta Detectives trilogy, Neele Leana Vollmar’s Rico, Oskar und die Tieferschatten, was voted as the winner in the Best Children’s Film category, which came as the second outing for amateur sleuths Rico and Oskar opened in German cinemas via Twentieth Century Fox, and the third and final part - again as a co-production between Lieblingsfilm and Fox International Productions (Germany) – began shooting in Leipzig this week.

Meanwhile, Baran bo Odar’s hacker thriller Who Am I – No System Is Safe attracted three trophies in the technical categories – for editing, production design and sound design –, and Dominik Graf’s historical drama Beloved Sisters convinced the Film Academy’s voting members with its costume design and make-up.

Nina Kunzendorf beat off competition from Meret Becker and Claudia Messner to pick up the Lola for Best Female Supporting Role for her performance in Christian Petzold’s Phoenix, while the young former Swiss “European Shooting Star” Joel Basman was recognised for his role in Burhan Qurbani’s We Are Young. We Are Strong.

The drama about xenophobia in a Rostock suburb based on real-life events in summer 1992 will be screening in competition at the 6th edition of the VOICES festival for young European cinema in the Russian town of Vologda next month.

A standing ovation was given to the veteran costume designer Barbara Baum, the recipient of this year’s Honorary Lola, whose long career has included collaborations with directors as diverse as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Bille August, Max Färberböck, Volker Schlöndorff and Stanley Kubrick.

A rare guest at the Lola ceremony was actor-producer-director Til Schweiger to receive a Golden Lola for the most successful German film at the local box-office, Head Full Of Honey (Honig im Kopf), which has been seen by over 6.8m German cinema-goers since its release last Christmas.

Earlier in the week, Schweiger, who has been embroiled in a public spat with State Minister for Culture and Media (BKM) Monika Grütters over her views on the future direction of German cinema, announced plans for a US remake of his latest blockbuster next year, this time with him only in the director’s chair.

The latest Lola winners - except for Barbara Baum and Til Schweiger - also took home cash prizes along with their golden trophies: almost €3m was shelled out by the BKM, including production premiums to the winners in the Best Feature Film, Documentary and Children’s Film categories to be invested in future film projects.

Policy debate

Discussion about the extension of the current German Film Law (FFG) beyond the end of 2016 kicked off in earnest ahead of the German Film Awards’ 65th edition.

In an opening speech on Friday evening, Minister Grütters observed that passion, courage, sensitivity, expressiveness, and willingness to experiment are “qualities that make films into works of art.”

“The quintessence of cultural film funding are the ideas which electrify, which get your heart’s blood rushing. They give a radiance to the German cinema,” she argued.

“Therefore, it is important that support is given not only to maximise returns but also to the courage for experimentation. Not having to necessarily please – that is artistic freedom – and that is what we mean by cultural film funding which is no less important for the German cinema than the economically-oriented film funding.”

Earlier in the week, the Erich Pommer Institut and the Hamburg media lawyers Unverzagt Von Have had hosted a conference in Berlin on the future funding of the German Federal Film Board (FFA) and the areas of focus for a new FFG which is set to take effect from 1 January, 2017.

Extensive reference was made in the discussions to a report on a future FFG, which had resulted from a brainstorming earlier this year by a group of industry figures including producers Martin Moszkowicz, Martin Hagemann, Tom Spiess and Sonja Schmitt, film funders Klaus Schaefer and Kirsten Niehuus, Oscar-winning filmmaker Florian Gallenberger and exhibitor Matthias Elwardt.

The expert group’s proposals of what they called a paradigm shift in the FFA’s future funding programme included the suggestion that the production funding should be divided according to an 85:15 split, with the bulk of the support going to the automatic “reference” funding and a lesser amount made available for the selective project funding.

In addition, it was proposed that the “reference” funding no longer be allocated only as grants, but have at least half of the amount being paid as a conditionally repayable loan.

The experts also addressed the perennial questions of script funding, the number of FFA committees and committee members and guidelines for holdbacks.

The FFA’s CEO Peter Dinges stressed that the recommendations outlined in the expert group’s report was only one component in the consultation process for the new FFG. The various film industry associations will be called on to submit their own statements, and the BKM will host an industry “round table” bringing all the various interested parties together.

In an opening address, the FFA’s President Bernd Neumann - who was Monika Grütter’s predecessor in the post of State Minister for Culture and Media - explained that an increase in funding for the national funding body was ¨advisable¨ given the anticipated demands on the FFA’s coffers in the future for the second generation of digitisation in German cinemas as well as the needs for digitisation of the film heritage.

Dr. Günter Winands, a senior civil servant responsible for film affairs at the BKM, pointed that the statutory contributions from different parts of the film industry - exhibitors, distributors, home entertainment - as wellas  public and private broadcasters was nearer to €40m each year rather than the €50m-60m of the past.

Previously, a third of the contributions had come via the cinema levy, another third from the TV stations, and a final third from the video industry, but the cinema levy was now making up some 50% of the FFA’s income via the contributions.

VOD

He added that there were moves to include additional sectors in the circle of contributors such as telcos and foreign VoD platforms.

The BKM has been waiting for the past three years for an official response from the European Commission (EC) to the Germans’ plan to oblige foreign VoD platforms to make appropriate payments to the FFA.

As set out in the current FFG, the levy would only apply to providers who offer films online in the German language and only relate to revenues generated from customers in Germany. However, the EC has wanted to examine whether this levy infringes the country of origin principle as set down in the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

Winands said that the EC had indicated that a response would (finally) be sent before the summer recess.

Meanwhile, Neumann criticised what he saw as a weakening of Germany’s competitive position and attractiveness for foreign producers in the international market following the decision to reduce the German Federal Film Fund’s (DFFF) budget from 2014’s €60m to €50m this year.

He argued that the budget cut at the DFFF and the reduction in the budget at North Rhine-Westphalia’s regional fund Film- und Medienstiftung was “the wrong signal”.

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