Neubau wins the top Max Ophüls Prize
by Teresa Vena
- German director Johannes Maria Schmit's first feature has been handed the Award for Best Feature at this year's Max Ophüls Prize Festival
This year, the Max Ophüls Preis Festival in Saarbrücken (20-26 January) once again presented a selection of the most promising new cinematic productions from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The festival mainly shows debut films by young filmmakers. The programme offers a platform for movies of different lengths, including long, medium-length and short films, and also presents feature-length documentaries. A series of prizes are awarded within each selection.
The jury tasked with selecting the best feature at the 41st edition of the gathering was composed of filmmakers, producers and editors, including Germany’s Susanne Heinrich. She is the director of Aren't You Happy? [+see also:
film profile], the film that won last year's edition of the Max Ophüls Prize. Her successor this year is Johannes Maria Schmit with his social and existential drama Neubau. The film follows a young man, played with great sensitivity by German actor Tucké Royale, who is torn between his sense of duty to his sick grandmother in the village and his burning desire to move to the city. In Berlin, he dreams of being able to join the gay community and to finally enjoy life to the full. The festival’s main award, worth €36,000, thus went to a film that, according to the jury statement, “takes the object of its gaze seriously and gives it dignity”.
Neubau also won the Prize for Best Social Interest Film, since it encompasses a range of important subjects such as homosexuality, age, illness and the living conditions in the countryside. The Saarland Minister-President's Award for Best Direction went to Austria’s Johanna Moder for Once Were Rebels, about a group of people who have lost their connection to the ideals they had when they were young. The jury appreciated the script’s black humour and the modern relevance of the subject matter.
The Awards for the Best Lead Actors, male and female, went to Mehdi Meskar for his role as an anti-hero in The Accidental Rebel [+see also:
film profile] by Randa Chahoud and Maresi Riegner for her performance in Irgendwann ist auch mal gut by Christian Werner. Moreover, The Accidental Rebel was chosen by a jury of young people as their favourite and thus won the Youth Jury Prize. There was also a strong female presence in the teams behind the winning films: for example, the Fritz-Raff Award for Best Screenplay went to Johanna Lietha for Lovecut by Iliana Estañol, a co-production between Switzerland and Austria. The film paints the portrait of a group of young people who belong to the digital generation.
Other prestigious trophies that were dished out included the Audience Award, which was given to Where No One Knows Us by Austria’s Arash T Riahi. In it, the director tells the story of three refugee children who have been living in Austria for the last few years, but who risk being deported and separated from their parents. Another Audience Award was given to a documentary – namely, Lost in Face by Valentin Riedl, which also scooped the Award for Best Music in a Documentary.
Finally, the title crowned Best Documentary was Regeln am Band, bei hoher Geschwindigkeit by Germany’s Yulia Lokshina. The film focuses on the problems of the German economy, which relies on a significant level of temporary workers, who usually have to endure a high level of job insecurity.
Here is the complete list of award winners at the Max Ophüls Prize Festival:
Best Feature Film
Neubau – Johannes Maria Schmit (Germany)
Saarland Minister-President's Award for Best Director
Johanna Moder - Once Were Rebels (Austria)
Regeln am Band, bei hoher Geschwindigkeit - Yulia Lokshina (Germany)
Fritz-Raff Award for Best Screenplay
Johanna Lietha - Lovecut (Switzerland/Austria)
Maresi Riegner – Irgendwann ist auch mal gut (Germany)
Best Social Interest Film
Neubau – Johannes Maria Schmit
Audience Award for Best Feature Film
Where No One Knows Us - Arash T Riahi (Austria)
Audience Award for Best Documentary
Lost in Face – Valentin Riedl (Germany)
Audience Award for Best Short Film
Trading Happiness (Trao đổi hạnh phúc) - Duc Ngo Ngo (Germany)
Audience Award for Best Medium-length Film
Masel Tov Cocktail - Arkadij Khaet, Mickey Paatzsch (Germany)
Best Medium-length Film
Lychen 92 - Constanze Klaue (Germany)
Best Short Film
Das Beste Orchester der Welt - Henning Backhaus (Austria)
Young Jury Award
The Accidental Rebel – Randa Chahoud
Best Music in a Documentary
Lost in Face – Valentin Riedl
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