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FESTIVALS Germany

Aren't You Happy? wins the 2019 Max Ophüls Prize

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- German director Susanne Heinrich's first feature has been handed the Award for Best Feature Film at the Max Ophüls Prize festival

Aren't You Happy? wins the 2019 Max Ophüls Prize
Director Susanne Heinrich with her two awards at the Max Ophüls Prize festival

The Max Ophüls Preis festival (14-20 January), which is held in the town of Saarbrücken in the south-west of Germany, dedicates itself to promoting the film industry and talents from the German-speaking regions. Over the years, it has developed into an important platform for raising awareness of films hailing from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This year, the festival celebrated its 40th anniversary, presenting mostly debut films that competed in several sections, such as feature films, documentaries, medium-length films and shorts.

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An international jury composed of film scholars, journalists and actors crowned Aren't You Happy? [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 by Susanne Heinrich as Best Film in the feature-film competition. The young German helmer has already published several novels, and presented a compelling, funny and highly relevant work. This was also the opinion of the jury, which stated, “Finally, a film is able to give a voice to a whole generation of sad girls.” Aren't You Happy? also won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

The Saarland Minister-President's Award and the Fritz-Raff Award for Best Screenplay both went to Cronofobia [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Francesco Rizzi
film profile
]
 by Swiss-Italian director Francesco Rizzi. The psychological drama teeming with plot twists talks about loneliness, grief and love, including an overblown but still unusual crime story. It stars Swiss actress Sabine Timoteo, who gives a complex and intense performance.

The Prize for Best Social Interest Film went to Joy [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sudabeh Mortezai
film profile
]
 by Austrian director Sudabeh Mortezai. In it, Joy is a black prostitute from Nigeria who lives in Vienna. It is “necessary to give a voice to all of the weakest and silent ones in our society” to help them as they face indifference and hypocrisy, stated the jury. Actress Joy Alphonsus, who breathed life into the main protagonist of the movie, won the Best Actress Award.

Films from Austria were well represented among the winners. Indeed, the Audience Award went to Kaviar, the satirical comedy mocking the wealthy Russian diaspora in Vienna, helmed by Elena Tikhonova and starring two veterans of Austrian cinema, Georg Friedrich and Simon Schwarz. Another Austrian film in the competition, Nevrland by Gregor Schmidinger, was selected by the young jury as their choice for best film. Its lead actor, Simon Frühwirth, won the Best Actor Award for his performance as a tormented young man struggling with panic attacks.

Finally, Hi, Ai by Isa Willinger, about artificial intelligence, was awarded as Best Documentary at the festival. Often in their films, the auteurs tended to tell coming-of-age stories, using the experiences of individuals to depict more universally valid states of mind, wishes, fears and emotions representative of a whole generation. One of the real revelations of the gathering was This Is Where I Meet You by Katharina Ludwig, who was able to narrate the end of a love affair by steering clear of drama, instead using tenderness and, at times, humour, leaving the viewer with a modicum of hope.

Here is the complete list of award winners at the Max Ophüls Preis festival:

Best Feature Film Award
Aren't You Happy? [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 - Susanne Heinrich (Germany)

The Saarland Minister-President's Award for Best Director
Cronofobia [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Francesco Rizzi
film profile
]
 - Francesco Rizzi (Switzerland)

Best Documentary
Hi, Ai - Isa Willinger (Germany)

Fritz-Raff Award for Best Screenplay
Cronofobia - Francesco Rizzi

Best Actor Award
Simon Frühwirth – Nevrland (Austria)

Best Actress Award
Joy Alphonsus – Joy [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sudabeh Mortezai
film profile
]
(Austria)

Prize for Best Social Interest Film
Joy - Sudabeh Mortezai

Audience Award for Best Feature Film
Kaviar - Elena Tikhonova (Austria)

Audience Award for Best Documentary
Congo Calling - Stephan Hilpert (Germany)

Audience Award for Best Short Film
Stilles Land Gutes Land - Johannes Bachmann (Switzerland)

Audience Award for Best Medium-length Film
Die Schwingen des Geistes - Alber Meisl (Austria)

Best Medium-length Film
Label Me - Kai Kreuser (Germany)

Best Short Film
Boomerang - Kurdwin Ayub (Austria)

Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
Aren't You Happy? - Susanne Heinrich

Young Jury Award
Nevrland - Gregor Schmidinger

Best Music in a Documentary
Let the Bell Ring - Christin Freitag (Germany)

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