The Teacher's Lounge

Source: © Judith Kaufmann, Alamode Film

‘The Teacher’s Lounge’

Ilker Çatak’s The Teachers’ Lounge was the surprise winner of the German Film Awards’ top prize of the Golden Lola for best film, ahead of the  Silver Lola for Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and the Bronze Lola for Ali Abbasi’s thriller Holy Spider.

The fourth feature from Çatak stars Benesch as a teacher struggling to keep a situation under control in a secondary school also won best director for  Çatak, best screenplay for Çatak and Johannes Duncker, best lead actress for Benesch and best editing for  Gesa Jäger. The Teacher’s Lounge is produced by Ingo Fließ’s if… Productions, and had its world premiere in the Berlinale’s Panorama in February. Be For Films is handling international sales. 

Accepting the Lola from Claudia Roth, state minister for Culture and Mediah, Fließ first thanked the film’s financing partners before adding: “We need new structures where creative freedom and freedom of thought are rewarded [and] we need an environment where innovation is possible.”

Although the votes of the German Film Academy’s 2,200 members were not sufficient for Berger’s First World War drama to clinch the evening’s main prize, the Netflix production didn’t disappoint those who had tipped it as the hot favourite to bag the most Lolas from its 12 nominations.

The nine Lolas - as many as awarded to Andreas Kleinert’s Dear Thomas last year - were mainly in technical categories including best cinematography for UK DoP James Friend, best original score by Volker Bertelmann, and best production design by Christian M. Goldbeck, mirroring the Oscar haul for the German-language film. It also won Lolas forr visual effects, sound design and make-up.

 In addition, Silver Lolas were presented to All Quiet’s lead actor Felix Kammerer making his acting debut in a feature film and to the supporting actor Albrecht Schuch. 

Accepting the Bronze Lola with his German partner Sol Bondy of Berlin-based One Two Films, for Holy Spider, Danish producer Jakob Jarek said the film could not have been made without the support of the funds, financiers and partners “and a fantastic film crew. You have a generous system and were very generous with us”.

Meanwhile, the Lola for best documentary went to Claudia Müller’s Elfriede Jelinek - Language Unleashed and Barbara Kronenberg’s road movie Mission Ulja Funk triumphed in the best children’s film category. Sven Unterwaldt’s second film in the School Of Magical Animals franchise received a Lola for being the most commercially successful German film released in 2022.

The same Lola had been awarded last year to the first School Of Magical Animals film directed by Gregor Schnitzler as the most successful German film of 2021 with a total of 1.7m admissions. 

The gala ceremony also saw the Honorary Lola for services to German cinema going to the veteran director Volker Schlöndorff. Actor John Malkovich paid tribute to his close friend of close to 40 years in a live video linkup. “As we say in America, they don’t make them like that…anymore!”

On-set reforms 

While the German Film Awards are first and foremost a celebration of the best of German filmmaking, organisers did not shy away from allowing the event to be used as a platform for political statements ranging from the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and the the protest movement against the Iranian regime following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody last September, to the impact of climate change and the future of Turkey after this weekend’s elections.

In addition, speaking to the assembled audience at the beginning of the ceremony, minister Roth addressed tackled the debate about working conditions on film sets, which has been triggered by recent allegations of abuse levelled at the actor-director Til Schweiger, who has denied the allegations. 

“We have to talk here about structural changes in order to ensure that there is a working atmosphere on German film sets without authoritarian abuse of power, without sexual harassment or even violence,” Roth said. “And it must at last be possible for those affected to be open about naming wrongdoings without then being ostracised and accused of fouling their own nests. This is exactly what we are demanding from the entire industry and we will alsodo our part to improve working conditions with the reform of the film funding system.”

Meanwhile, the Film Academy’s co-president actress Alexandra Maria Lara responded to recent criticism about the shortlist and nomination procedures for the Lolas from arthouse cinema organisation AG Kino by giving a well-received speech that said there would be some reform of how films are selected in future thanks to support to do so from the Academy’s membership.

The final decision on a new selection procedure will be taken by Roth who provides the prize money totalling almost € 3m distributed to the winners of the Lolas each year. 

Attended by 1,600 guests, the awards ceremony lasted over three hours and was held for the first time at the Theater am Potsdamer Platz, which has served as the main screening venue for the Berlinale’s official competition since 2000. It was fitting the Lolas - named in homage to Marlene Dietrich’s character in The Blue Angel - should be handed out at a location - Marlene-Dietrich-Platz - named after the legendary actress.