Screenwriter Award 2006 to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

This year’s Screenwriter Award is again presented by Network Movie and the Cologne Conference. The award turns the spotlight on the extraordinary role of the writer in the creation of outstanding film and television productions. It pays tribute to screenwriter personalities whose work is so accomplished in form and content that it enriches film and television in remarkable ways. In its recognition of an up-and-coming filmmaker, this year’s award also looks to the future of the craft. The Screenwriter Award 2006 honors 33-year-old writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

In his first feature film, DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN, von Donnersmarck tackles a sensitive and relevant issue. His well-written, multi-faceted script is cautious, sincere, and full of humor in its depiction of people who come to terms in very different ways with everyday life in the GDR, a life ruled by spying, resentment and fear. Von Donnersmarck grew up in New York, Berlin, Frankfurt a. M. and Brussels. He studied Russian, political science, philosophy and economics at Oxford, and then completed a directing internship with Richard Attenborough. In 1997 he enrolled at the Munich Academy for Television and Film. He shot several shorts. DOBERMANN (1999), for which he also wrote the script, won the Max-Ophüls-Preis in 2000 and received a »Besonders wertvoll« mark from the German states’ joint film rating office. For the 15-minute film DER TEMPLER (2002), a story about intolerance towards people of different faith, set in Byzantium in 1204, von Donnersmarck teamed up with his brother Sebastian.

Trusting his talent, he turned down several directing jobs to pursue his own first feature film project instead: DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN, a story about a couple of lovers living in the surveillance state of the GDR. Unlike von Donnersmarck’s partly creepy thriller shorts, this is much more of a low key work in its subtle, clear-cut treatment of its subject matter, but it does also include surprising points as well as outright moments of terror. Already a winner of multiple awards, the film excels in its exacting character depictions and features narrative threads that intertwine and diverge again so elegantly that one wonders whether von Donnersmarck has several years experience in scriptwriting under his belt. And this writerdirector keeps spinning his threads. He is currently working on several scripts, including one about C. G. Jung and psychoanalysis. The Cologne Conference congratulates Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck on winning the Screenwriter Award 2006.

TV Spielfilm Award 2006 MEDEA by Theo van Gogh

His passion for confrontation cost Theo van Gogh his life. On 2 November, 2004, the filmmaker, actor and journalist was gunned down and stabbed to death on his way to his production company in Amsterdam. The provocative critic of Islam had fallen victim to a Muslim fanatic. Reports in the aftermath of the attack have drawn attention away from the fact that van Gogh’s passionate contentiousness was not limited to Islam, but extended to any form of institutionalized religion – and was complemented by his outspoken advocacy of the abolishment of monarchy in the Netherlands.

Hence, predictably, van Gogh chose anything but a reverent approach to Euripides’ classic in the making of his final completed work, the TV mini series MEDEA. However, it is exactly the radical modernity of this reprise which does the Greek poet, who was quite a controversial figure in his own days, perfect justice. Van Gogh turns the saga of Medea’s infanticide, a tale rife with violence, into a parable about the contemporary Dutch political scene. His Jason is an unscrupulous social climber, his Medea a sacked minister’s daughter who ruthlessly takes revenge on her husband. Different narrative threads intertwine perfectly thanks to the virtuosity of van Gogh’s direction. Using a handheld camera to keep close to his protagonists, van Gogh leads his audience in a breathless rush into a world of intrigue and egotism where moral standards seem a foreign concept. Only the stunning, forceful end reveals how true this MEDEA stays to the Greek tragedy.

Documentation Award 2006 FOKUS POKUS €UROMATIK

Borjana Ventzislavova’s FOKUS POKUS €UROMATIK captures the Wiener Prater amusement park in images that resemble pictures of a world gone by. The sky is gray, only few people have turned up at the rides and lottery booths, and even the Ferris wheel is anything but packed with passengers. The fairground seems like a relic from the past, yet time has visibly left its mark on it. In interviews with seasonal workers at the amusement businesses the film depicts the Prater as a microcosm of the modern working world where flexibility is key, and in which migrant workers especially from the former Yugoslavia compete with Austrians who are long-established in this business.

The filmmakers Borjana Ventzislavova, born in Bulgaria, and Miroslav Nicic, born in Yugoslavia, have studied visual media design in Vienna and have been collaborating artistically for a number of years. Their abstract cinematography and startling choice of angles transform the Prater into a place that escapes the tourist’s perspective. However, in their interviews with people working at the fairground, the directors are also model documentarians who patiently attend to the life stories, problems, dreams and hopes of their protagonists. This combination of artistic aspiration in visual style and quintessentially documentarian ethos makes FOKUS POKUS €UROMATIK an exceptional viewing experience.