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TORONTO: GERMAN CINEMA STRONGER THAN EVER

German cinema is highly appreciated at the Toronto International Film Festival (10 - 20 September 2015). Recent years have seen films from Germany regularly making an impact with a strong presence in the program and generating strong interest from audiences and industry alike. But 2015 has proven to be a particularly successful year: nine German feature films and three shorts as well as another 21 German co-productions were programmed in various sections. And they attracted a lot of interest at North America's most important film festival. 

COLONIA (DE/LU/FR, Majestic Filmproduction, Rat Pack Filmproduktion) celebrated its world premiere in the prestigious sidebar of Special Presentations. Director Florian Gallenberger had brought along his top-class actors Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyquist and Richenda Carey who attracted a lot of attention from the international press in interviews as well as on the red carpet. The interest from the audience and industry was so large that the Princess of Wales Theatre was completely full on the first festival Sunday with around 1,700 spectators. The screening was followed by a very intense Q&A where the audience had many questions, with a particular focus on the political background of Colonia Dignidad.

Sebastian Schipper's VICTORIA (MonkeyBoy, Deutschfilm, Radical Media), which also showed in the Special Presentations, had been hotly anticipated ahead of its theatrical release in the USA and Canada on 9 October 2015 and received very positive feedback from the international press as well. The film was among the "Must Sees" at TIFF for Rolling Stone, and it received all five possible stars from the UK's Guardian. Ryan Lattanzio interviewed the director Sebastian Schipper for the website Indiewire, which is particularly important for the English-speaking independent film world.

The screening of EVERY THING WILL BE FINE (DE/CA/FR/SE/NO, Neue Road Movies) was a 'home game' for Wim Wenders since the film was shot in Canada. The audience also greeted him like an old friend and applauded the film.

There were world premieres in Contemporary World Cinema for ONE BREATH by Christian Zübert (Senator Film, ARRI Film & TV Services, BVG Filmproduktion), who had already been in Toronto with TOUR DE FORCE last year, and A HEAVY HEART (DEPARTURES FILM, Deutschfilm), the feature debut by the Student Oscar® winner Thomas Stuber. Both films scored with audiences in the festival's first busy weekend and screened in full cinemas. Ben Kenigsberg wrote enthusiastically in Variety about ONE BREATH and forecast that Christian Zübert would have an "arthouse breakout" with the film. The leading Canadian daily newspaper The Globe and Mail gave a very positive review of A HEAVY HEART as did The Hollywood Reporter. Thomas Stuber is definitively "a talent to watch", according to the international trade paper. The world sales company ARRI Media World Sales sold ONE BREATH to Spain (Karma Films) and Turkey (Filmarti) so far. Final negotiations with France are underway. 

The fact that THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER (zero one film, TERZ Film) has plenty of potential as an audience favorite is something that the film had already demonstrated at its world premiere in Locarno with an enthusiastic audience on the Piazza Grande and by winning the Audience Award. This enthusiasm continued with its North American premiere in Contemporary World Cinema. Around 500 viewers in a packed cinema were captivated by Fritz Bauer's pursuit of Adolf Eichmann, and the director Lars Kraume and lead actor Burghart Klaußner were much in demand for conversations during and after the Q&A. The historical thriller has developed into a best-selling title among the international buyers. To date, the sales company Beta Cinema has sold the film to Cinema (Italy), Caramel (Spain), Cineart (Benelux), Scanbox (Scandinavia), Strada Films (Greece), Lev Cinemas (Israel), Alfa Films (Argentina) and New Select (Japan). ARP (France) and LookNow! (Switzerland) had already acquired the film before the world premiere in Locarno. Negotiations with US distributors are near to being concluded.

Director Sebastian Ko was, like Thomas Stuber, also invited to such an important festival as TIFF with his first feature-length film. WE MONSTERS (Ester.Reglin.Film) had its North American premiere on Friday evening at 10 p.m., and the screening in the presence of the director and lead actress Ulrike C. Tscharre was very well attended, especially given the relatively late starting time. The sales company Pluto Film reported back from Toronto about initial sales to Turkey and Austria as well as interest from other territories.

German cinema was also well represented in the field of documentaries: the world premiere of German Kral's documentary OUR LAST TANGO (DE/AR, Lailaps Pictures, German Kral Filmproduktion, Schubert International) in the TIFF Docs was sold out on the festival's first Saturday evening. A long and detailed Q&A followed with the director. OUR LAST TANGO was sold to the following territories: Australia and New Zealand (Sharmill), Japan (New Select), South Korea (Mirovision), Taiwan (Swallow Wings), Hong Kong and Macao (Edko), Brazil (Imovision), Italy (Just Wanted), Switzerland (Xenix Film Distribution), Greece (Rosebud), Hungary (Vertigo), Romania (Clorofilms), Bulgaria (Icinema). The world sales Company WIDE HOUSE is in discussion for sales to France, North America and the United Kingdom.

DER NACHTMAHR (OOO-Films Produktion, Bon Voyage Films) – which had already been blessed in Munich and Locarno with sold-out screenings and positive attention from the press and industry – continued its very successful festival career in Toronto. Director AKIZ, who had come to TIFF with actor Wilson Gonzales Ochsenknecht, was a man much in demand from representatives of the international industry in Toronto.

 
 
STUDENT OSCARS® AT FIRST HAND: AN L.A. DIARY

Saturday, 12 September 2015 / Sunday, 13 September 2015:

The Hollywood and Student Oscars® adventure began for all of us on Saturday, 12 September. We were officially collected from the airport and brought to a 5-star hotel in downtown L.A.

On Sunday evening, the welcome dinner then took place in a snazzy restaurant. Generally speaking, we had lots to eat during this week and the Academy never scrimped in this respect. We got to meet all of the winners in various other categories as well as all the people of the Academy with whom we'd only had very frequent e-mail contact until now. It's always fascinating to finally see a face and hear the voice for all the names in your in-box. The meal was good. I had a steak.

(Patrick Vollrath)


Monday, 14 September 2015:

On Monday, we were taken to the Academy building for the first time. A rather unassuming glass building discreetly sporting the words: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And then there's a big poster of an Oscar® in the lobby.

A first interview then followed by a lunch with all the Academy members who had judged our shorts. That was extremely fascinating. Everybody there had worked on various films that you personally hold in great esteem. There were conversations with an actor from a Woody Allen film or THE GRADUATE, with the editor of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST or the director of photography of GROUNDHOG DAY. All of them very nice, very interested and open people. And they had all seen your particular film. That was rather cool.

I then started talking with a very nice lady - Lois Burwell. Initially, small talk. After a while, I then asked what she does in the dream factory. She said in a friendly way that she is a make-up artist. Whether I had seen films like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or WAR OF THE WORLDS? She was mainly responsible there for the make-up. And she had received her Oscar® for BRAVEHEART. My eyes got bigger and bigger. You can't get any cooler. She then gave me lots of tips about collaboration between the make-up department and the director. Moreover, she kept on coming up with insider stories about all the great films she'd worked on. I learned and laughed a lot. Moreover, now I know that Steven (people are always known by their first name in Hollywood) particularly likes Lois Burwell's home-grown avocados.

In the evening, all of our films were then shown in the huge Samuel Goldwyn Theatre. Unfortunately, the evening was not so well attended. We had all certainly expected a bit more. Some 1,200 people had been invited, but unfortunately not many of these had turned up. At least we could then also see the winning  films of our colleagues, which was naturally very exciting. As most of the films each lasted on average about 30 minutes, we didn't get to bed until after spending five hours in the cinema. The next day was just as eventful. 

(Patrick Vollrath)


Tuesday, 15 September 2015:

On Tuesday evening, the team of the Academy organized a dinner close to Sunset Boulevard with various personalities from the L.A. film industry. Directors and producers as well as previous winners of the Student Academy Awards® and members of the Academy. The various filmmaker categories were each put together with one or two conversation partners to take a look behind the scenes on the basis of concrete careers as they enjoyed excellent Italian cuisine and chilled drinks. 

As the Foreign Film group, we had the great fortune of being able to spend the evening talking with the producer Suzanne Todd. She spoke about her beginnings as a producer's assistant and her journey to becoming a producer for such renowned companies as New Line Cinema. Most recently, she produced Tim Burton's version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, whose sequel is currently in post-production. We were particularly interested in her collaboration with the then still very young director Christopher Nolan on his debut MEMENTO and the immense challenges of bringing this 'difficult' film into the cinemas. There was a volley of rejections from distributors, including a very harsh one from Harvey Weinstein. The success story of this film, which set such standards, was only possible thanks to the constantly growing success at festivals and the many independent cinemas. And then suddenly the phone rang again in Suzanne Todd's office – with Harvey Weinstein on the other end and a rather generous offer...

(Dustin Loose)
 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015:

Wednesday began with a panel and Q&A with representatives from the "Business" level – a manager for actors, writers and directors as well as an agent from the Paradigm Agency and the director Bryan Buckley, who were more or less concrete in telling us about how to establish a "film career" in the USA. They stressed the importance of an appropriate representation – whether this is through a manager, agent or lawyer – but were, however, somewhat  reticent when asked how one would find these supporters. They all encouraged us to remain faithful to our paths, visions and personalities. Probably a more elegant form of "Don't call us – we'll call you".

After the panel, we were allowed to enter the "hallowed halls" of the Academy: the film archive. This is the place where the staff are not only trying to store the Oscar®-nominated and awarded films, but also many negatives, work prints, trailers and fragments of all kinds of films that they can lay their hands on. Meter high, fully air-conditioned and well-secured "safes" have been installed in enormous former film studios for film heritage to be preserved with great care. Rummaging around on the many shelves, we came across an original 70mm print of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, as well as the negatives of LOST HIGHWAY and some German films. The director of the archive told us that our films are now also part of the archive and will therefore be preserved at quite a high level of security for posterity. It's quite awe-inspiring to think that our "little" films are now archived with all of these important filmmakers...

In the evening, the Academy hosted a large reception with all of the award-winning filmmakers, many previous Student Academy Award® winners and other members of the AMPAS. This is where we could at last bring along some of our team members who had specially come to L.A. from Germany. Our films were often a topic of conversation and also a reason for many guests to speak directly with us, ask questions and also ask about the next steps. Some of the alumni from previous years reported about their progress and setbacks, about surprising chances and the strength you have to constantly muster in order to create further projects and films from such a wonderful award.

(Dustin Loose)


Thursday, 17 September 2015, the day of the awards ceremony:

The shuttle takes us to the photoshoot for The Hollywood Reporter at 10.15. An old cinema in Baroque style, very impressive. A floor manager meets us. We are guided into a green room where a buffet and a make-up artist are already waiting for us. Once everyone has their make-up done, we first go off to the photo shoot and then have the interview. Harmless questions: which actors would you like to work with? Who is your favorite director? What is your favorite film? Etc.

Then we have a group photo. The photographer ladles it on a bit: the fog machine is put into action, lights are put up, the photographer has four assistants. It feels like being on a fashion shoot. Everybody has their individual position. We are forbidden from smiling. This all takes a while. It's 15.00 before we are back in the hotel.

We have just an hour to freshen up and put on our evening togs. Because, at 16.00,  the next shuttle takes us to the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, to the Academy, where the awards ceremony will be held that evening. Most people in the bus are going through their speeches yet again. The next photo calls are already awaiting us when we arrive at the Academy. Once again, we are initially photographed in our category as a group. Then individual photos. Michelle Rodriguez honors the event with her presence. There is gradually a whiff of excitement in the air. A woman from Associated Press interviews us as a group. Then someone from German public TV broadcaster ARD. Meanwhile, more guests have arrived and the buffet is opened. We have a brief discussion: should one have a drink before the ceremony? Patrick remains steadfast. Dustin and Ilker indulge themselves.
 
Then the bell sounds. The ceremony begins. We have seats reserved, in the front row. The hall is full. Sure to be a thousand people. They are all done up the nines. The ladies have appeared in dresses or even evening gowns. Most of the men are wearing suits, some even have tuxedos. The event begins with edited highlights of the winners and some statements we have made a few days beforehand. Our trailers are shown on the screen. Then Michelle Rodriguez takes over. And they start straightaway with the Foreign category: Bronze, Silver, Gold are announced – in this order. A speech is made after the presentation of each medal. The same thing happens for all the other categories. At the end, it is an event with 15 acceptance speeches. Drinks are forbidden in the auditorium so that it all begins to drag a bit after about an hour.

This is followed by a stampede of photographers. We are passed around. One more pose. And another. We are thirsty and would actually just like to have something to drink. The hullabaloo is nice, but exhausting. In the end, we disappear up to the seventh floor where a buffet has been prepared for the filmmakers and the Academy members. But we have to sweet talk  the bouncers to get our teams in. Private function. There isn't any music playing. Lots of hands are shaken, photos taken, and lots of chat. But the event isn't there for networking because no agents, managers or producers are allowed in. It is more of a friendly conclusion with friends, coming from the excitement we had just experienced. This is where we also get our prize-money in the form of cheques. Around midnight, the lights are then switched off and the party guests are politely asked to leave.

The filmmakers go on to Sixty Beverly Hills. A rooftop bar very close to the Academy. We drink cocktails from plastic cups and finish the evening here.

(Ilker Çatak)


Friday, 18 September 2015, the day after:

Even those who made their excuses and left earlier, wake up with a headache. It was all really a bit too much. We are invited to the German Consul-General at 11.30. Patrick has appointments and so can't attend the event. Dustin and Ilker go to the event with their teams. The Consul-General receives us. We talk about the German film landscape, Los Angeles and what it means to live here. All in all, the conversation lasts an hour. At the end, we snap the obligatory group photo.

A barbeque is organized on the beach of Santa Monica in the afternoon. Kindly donated by the Consulate. We reflect on the evening over beer and sausages and end the week once more. The next day, we all go our separate ways. Saying goodbye is hard. Not least because the People have become dear to our heart and the same goes amongst ourselves. And because we know that this will probably be the last Student Oscar® that we will receive in this life.

(Ilker Çatak)

 
 
SPOTLIGHT: BUENOS AIRES

There were some illustrious guests at the 15th edition of the Festival of German Films in Buenos Aires (10 - 16 September 2015) this year. Director Giulio Ricciarelli was in town for the opening film and German candidate film for the Foreign Oscar®LABYRINTH OF LIES (Claussen+Woebke+Putz Filmproduktion, Naked Eye Filmproduction). There was a lot of coverage and great interest in the film from the Argentine press – over 50 journalists came to the press conference and screening with Giulio Ricciarelli. Pupils and teachers from three German schools in Buenos Aires were delighted that he attended the school screenings. The festival audience also liked LABYRINTH OF LIES: the public screenings were sold out and the spectators voted it as the most popular film in the program. The cinema was just as full for the screening of Sebastian Schipper's VICTORIA (MonkeyBoy, deutschfilm, RadicalMedia) in the presence of the lead actress Laia Costa, who answered the audience's questions with lots of passion and humor. LABYRINTH OF LIES was released in Argentina on 17 September 2015 through CDI Films, and VICTORIA on 24 September 2015 via Mirada Distribución. The Festival of German Films consequently provided a festive setting for the avant-premieres and an opportunity for supporting press work with Giulio Ricciarelli and Laia Costa. In total, around 6,400 cinemagoers came to the Village Recoleta and Villa Caballito cinemas to see the latest in German cinema and guaranteed well-attended screenings. In total, six films of the program had sold-out performances.

Photos on Facebook...

All of the films in Buenos Aires...

 
 
FESTIVALS

World premiere for HIGHWAY TO HELLAS in Busan. More...

German cinema at BFI London Film Festival. More...

German films at San SebastianRio de Janeiro, WarsawNew York, ChicagoHaifa, Zurich, Reykjavik and Sitges.

German shorts at Riga, Sapporo, Drama, Lille and Geneva.

 
 
AWARDS

Awards for German films in Melbourne and Santiago.

Awards for German shorts in Drama, Lille and Ottawa.

 
 
INTERNATIONAL RELEASES

1 October 2015:
THE DESSAU DANCERS in Korea (Distributor: Euro Communications, World sales: ARRI Media World Sales)

8 October 2015:
FACK JU GOETHE 2 in Hungary (Distributor: Big Bang Media, World sales: Picture Tree International)
FACK JU GOETHE 2 in Slovakia (Distributor: Barracuda Movie,World Sales: Picture Tree International)
FACK JU GOETHE 2 in the Czech Republic (Distributor: CinemArt, World Sales: Picture Tree International)
LABYRINTH OF LIES in Columbia (Distributor: Cine Colombia, World sales: Beta Cinema) 

9 October 2015:
VICTORIA in the United States (Distributor: Adopt Films, World sales: The Match Factory)
THE MISPLACED WORLD in Sweden (Distributor: Studio Entertainment, World sales: Wild Bunch)

16 October 2015: 
JACK in Spain (Distributor: Karma Films, World sales: Beta Cinema) 
VICTORIA in Mexico (Distributor: ND Mantarraya, World sales: The Match Factory)

21 October 2015:
13 MINUTES in France (Distributor: Sophie Dulac Distribution, World sales: Beta Cinema)

23 October 2015:
MAYA THE BEE in UK and Ireland (Distributor: Primal Screen, World sales: Studio 100 Media)

 
 
BOX-OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Germany:

Bora Dagtekin's FACK JU GOEHTE 2 has reached over 5 million visitors and 42.8 million euros box-office after its third weekend in German cinemas. This is the second best box-office result of a German film in Germany after its third weekend ever. The sequel of the box-office hit FACK JU GOEHTE - SUCK ME SHAKESPEER has already written history after the first weekend where it postet 17.6 million euros which was the best start of a German film in Germany ever, box-office-wise.  

International:

PHOENIX by Christian Petzold (Schramm Film Koerner & Weber) is still doing very well in the US cinemas. The film has since taken 2.94 million euros box-office and can still be seen in 169 cinemas. The number of prints was constantly increased from its release on 24 July 2015 until mid-September when it was showing in 197 cinemas.