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Berlinale 2024 – EFM

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

German Films celebrates its 70th birthday at the Berlinale

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BERLINALE 2024: During a press conference, the national information and advisory centre for the promotion of German films provided an overview of its anniversary plans

German Films celebrates its 70th birthday at the Berlinale
German Films managing director Simone Baumann and author and film producer Alfred Holighaus during the event (© Katrin Büchler)

On 17 February, during the 2024 Berlinale, German Films held a press conference at which it announced its plans for 2024 – the year of its 70th birthday.

Simone Baumann, managing director of German Films since 2019, whose appointment was extended for another five years earlier this year, welcomed the press representatives and gave an insight into the history of German Films. The centre was founded in 1954, originally as the Export Union of German Cinema. Its main purpose was to sell German cinema abroad. In 2004, it was transformed into a limited company and rebranded German Films and Marketing GmbH. German producers’ organisations (such as the German Producers Alliance and the German Documentary Association, AGDok) as well as national and regional German film funds (such as the German Federal Film Board FFA and the Bavarian Film Fund) became shareholders.

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Currently, the annual budget of the 18-strong team is €4.8 million, financed for the most part through film-export levies, the office of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media and the FFA.

The main focus of German Films is on distribution support for German cinema, but it is also working on series in a limited capacity – for example, through its Face to Face with German Films campaign, which has been shining a light on the rising stars of the German film industry, from actors to directors, and from writers to production designers (see the news and the interview with Soleen Yusef).

To celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2024 – a very successful year for German cinema, with Ilker Çatak’s The Teachers’ Lounge [+see also:
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in the running for the LUX Audience Award as well as being nominated for the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category, and actress Sandra Hüller scoring a nomination for Best Actress for her role in Anatomy of a Fall [+see also:
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– German Films has decided to look back on the past few decades via a “success story of German cinema”: a list of German cinematic gems representative of the past 70 years. The list was curated by Alfred Holighaus, an author and film producer who has previously worked as a film critic.

For the programme, he selected 14 feature films, animations and documentaries, including East German features from the DEFA era. Holighaus says he was initially approached and asked to pick only five films – an impossible feat that he was considering turning down. His main selection criterion was the international impact of the chosen pictures. His final selection comprises Serengeti by Michael and Bernhard Grzimek (1959), Yesterday Girl by Alexander Kluge (1965/66), The Marriage of Maria Braun by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1978), Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders (1987), Run Lola Run by Tom Tykwer (1998), Good Bye, Lenin! [+see also:
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by Wolfgang Becker (2003), The White Ribbon [+see also:
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by Michael Haneke (2009), Animals United [+see also:
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by Holger Trappe and Reinhard Klooss (2010), Toni Erdmann [+see also:
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by Maren Ade, I’m Your Man [+see also:
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by Maria Schrader (2021) and All Quiet on the Western Front [+see also:
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by Edward Berger (2023), while the DEFA-era films in the selection are Trace of Stones by Frank Beyer (1966), Jacob the Liar by Frank Beyer (1974) and Solo Sunny by Konrad Wolf (1980).

In addition to the feature-film selection, three shorts are included in the package, picked by a German Films staff member: Balance (1989) by Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein, Forklift Driver Klaus – The First Day on the Job (2001) by Jörg Wagner and Stefan Prehn, and Seven Times a Day We Bemoan Our Lot and at Night We Get up to Avoid Dreaming (2014) by Susann Maria Hempel.

The list of films will be offered up to partners, such as film festivals and cultural institutes, to choose from. There is no obligation to screen the entire package. There is also a possibility to invite the film directors or other members of the film crew to screenings. Cooperative agreements are already in place with the upcoming edition of the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn (November 2024), where Germany will be the country in focus; with the Raindance Film Festival in London (June 2024); and with the Goethe-Institut Toronto.

To conclude, Philipp Kreuzer, a producer and the chairman of the German Films board, highlighted that in 2024, there would also be a particular focus on reassessing critical figures from German cinema in the context of National Socialism, an important matter considering the recent rise of populist parties in Germany and across Europe. Proof of this can be found in a critical article about Dr Günter Schwarz, the first managing director of the Export Union of German Cinema, in the latest issue of German Films Quarterly, which you can read here.

Click here to read the full German Films press release.

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