German Films Focuses on Directors for Third Edition of ‘Face to Face’ Campaign

Emily Atef, whose latest movie “3 Days in Quiberon” world premieres in competition at next month’s Berlin Film Festival, is one of six leading German directors selected to participate in the third edition of Face to Face With German Films, an initiative organized by promotional organization German Films.

Atef, whose film is inspired by the life of actress Romy Schneider, is joined in the campaign by Valeska Grisebach, Lars Kraume, Anca Miruna Lazarescu, Burhan Qurbani and David Wnendt. The directors “represent German cinema’s current accomplishments and dynamic voices,” according to a statement released Monday by German Films, a body that promotes Teutonic cinema internationally. “The campaign celebrates current trends in German filmmaking, promoting German cinema to international audiences and an awareness of modern German storytelling and styles,” the statement added.

The six ambassadors will attend various events to publicize the latest edition during the Berlinale and elsewhere over the coming year. The campaign will launch at the Berlin film festival with a filmmaker panel hosted by Variety and in association with German Films. It will be moderated by film critic Jessica Kiang and the six directors will discuss their work and the current and future landscape of German cinema.

Grisebach’s latest feature, “Western,” premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year to critical acclaim and won several prizes at leading festivals, including Poland’s New Horizons and Mar del Plata. The film, which was acquired by Cinema Guild in the U.S., follows a group of German construction workers in rural Bulgaria. Variety critic Guy Lodge said: “Grisebach has an acute, intelligent ear for the micro-aggressions — some accidental, some deliberate, some not so micro — that can escalate into more heated cultural battles.”

Kraume is the director of “The People vs. Fritz Bauer,” which won six German Film Awards in 2016, including best film and director, as well as the Audience Award at Locarno in 2015. The film, which was a Cohen Media Group pickup for North America, follows efforts by West German district attorney Fritz Bauer to prosecute Adolf Eichmann, one of the key organizers of the Holocaust, after discovering in 1957 that he was hiding in Buenos Aires.

Kraume’s latest feature, “The Silent Revolution,” tells the true-life story of a class of students who in 1956 stood up to East Germany’s communist regime. It will screen as a Special Gala screening at the Berlin Film Festival. It stars Ronald Zehrfeld, one of the six actors chosen in the previous edition of Face to Face With German Films.

Lazarescu, who was born in Romania and moved to Germany in 1990, made her feature debut last year with “That Trip We Took With Dad.” The comedy-drama centers on the dilemma facing a Romanian family when they have the chance to flee their country during the communist era. It is inspired by her father’s experience when faced with a similar choice.

The director, who is working on her next feature “Happiness Sucks” and a series for HBO Europe, made a huge impact with her short film “Silent River” in 2011. It was invited to screen at more than 300 festivals, including in competition at Berlin, and received more than 80 international awards.

German-Afghan director Qurbani made his feature debut with “Faith,” which centers on three Muslims living in Berlin struggling with their religious beliefs. It premiered in competition at the Berlinale in 2010. He followed that with “We Are Young. We Are Strong” in 2014, which looks at the xenophobic riots in Rostock, in eastern Germany. It played at the Rotterdam and Rome festivals. He is currently working on his third feature, “Alexanderplatz.” The film, based on Alfred Doblin’s novel, centers on Francis B., a Nigerian refugee living in Berlin, who is led into criminality by German drug dealer Reinhold.

Wnendt’s feature debut, “Combat Girls,” won many awards, including three German Film Awards. His controversial coming-of-age movie “Wetlands” received a great deal of attention at Locarno in 2013 and screened in competition at Sundance in 2014. This was followed by “Look Who’s Back,” a satire about Adolf Hitler waking up in contemporary Germany, which was a box-office hit in Germany and was picked up by Netflix worldwide, excluding several territories.

Mariette Rissenbeek, managing director of German Films, said: “We are thrilled that, with our third edition, we are bringing these important ‘Faces’ from behind the camera into the spotlight. The six great directors of the campaign have very diverse artistic styles and have already gained recognition – at home and internationally – but also have exciting new projects, several of which will screen at the Berlinale. This offers a great opportunity to not only see these new films, but also to talk to the directors about their work there.”

The initiative launched in 2016 with six German actresses headlining the campaign – including Sandra Hüller (“Toni Erdmann”) and Paula Beer (“Frantz”). Hüller can be seen in “In the Aisles” and Beer in “Transit,” both screening in competition at the Berlinale this year.

Last year, the second phase of the initiative launched during Cannes and featured six of Germany’s leading actors, including established names such as Alexander Fehling (“Three Peaks,” “Homeland”) and Tom Schilling (“Woman in Gold,” “Oh Boy”), as well as new faces, such as Louis Hofmann (“Dark” and the Oscar-nominated “Land of Mine”).

German films performed strongly last year at major film festivals and awards ceremonies, winning more than 300 prizes, and also achieved wide international distribution.

Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade” played in competition at Cannes, where Diane Kruger took best actress, and won the Golden Globe for foreign-language film; German films were more strongly represented at the Toronto Film Festival than ever before, including premieres of Wim Wenders’ “Submergence,” Robert Schwentke’s “The Captain,” starring  Fehling, and “Three Peaks” from Jan Zabeil, all of which screened in the Special Presentations section.

Original German series attracted an international following, such as Netflix’s first original German-language serial production, “Dark,” and Sky’s “Babylon Berlin,” starring Liv Lisa Fries and Volker Bruch, both of whom featured in past editions of Face to Face With German Films.

(Pictured above, left to right: Burhan Qurbani, David Wnendt, Valeska Grisebach, Lars Kraume, Emily Atef, Anca Miruna Lazarescu)