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Berlin Film Fund Chief Toasts Cannes Films, Looks Ahead to Venice, Calls for Amped Up German Production Incentives (EXCLUSIVE)

Kirsten Niehuus, CEO at Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, which funds films and TV series production in the Berlin region, and Simone Baumann, managing director of German Films, which promotes and supports the release of German films abroad, welcomed a wide array of guests to their garden party at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

Three Medienboard-funded films are in this year’s Competition: Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s “Four Daughters,” Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner’s “Club Zero,” and U.S. helmer Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City.”

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Niehuus told Variety: “Those are three very different productions, but it shows the spectrum [of films] that Medienboard supports.” Tunisian films, like “Four Daughters,” need international co-production funding to get made, she said, and “we believe in world cinema, so were very happy [to back it].” Hausner is “one of the most impressive female filmmakers [in the world], and I think there should be more female filmmakers on the Croisette and every other ‘A’ festival,” she said. “Asteroid City” is “the best of American arthouse filmmaking; very stylish, with a great narrative – so we love it,” she said.

Medienboard CEO Kirsten Niehuus with German actors Franz Rogowski, Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel.
Medienboard CEO Kirsten Niehuus with German actors Franz Rogowski, Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel.

Looking ahead to Venice, there is the possibility of the inclusion of German director Julia von Heinz’s comedy “Iron Box,” starring Lena Dunham and Stephen Fry; and German director Angelina Maccarone’s “Turning Tables,” starring Lambert Wilson, both of which are backed by Medienboard. Von Heinz’s “And Tomorrow the Entire World” was in competition in Venice in 2020, and was Germany’s official submission for the Best International Feature Film category of the Academy Awards in 2021.

Commenting on the ongoing discussions about a reform of Germany’s Federal Film Fund, the DFFF, Niehuus said: “That’s not for me to decide, but if it were me to decide, I think it’s high time we introduced an automatic funding system that is competitive when you look at Hungary or Poland or France. When the DFFF was introduced, it was hot shit, but now it’s got a bit too old, and it needs renovating. I think Austria is a great example of how you can shape a very attractive, automatic fund. I’m optimistic that it might change for the better.”

Actor, director and producer Matthias Schweighoefer with Medienboard CEO Kirsten Niehuus and producer Frank Kusche
Actor, director and producer Matthias Schweighoefer with Medienboard CEO Kirsten Niehuus and producer Frank Kusche.

Looking ahead, she said Medienboard was working to encourage co-operation between Italian and German producers, as they have already done with Israeli producers. Among TV series projects that have been supported, she highlighted “Next Level,” about corruption in the Berlin political world, directed by Pia Strietmann and starring Lisa Vicari, who was in the TV series “Django.”

Germany is represented in the official selection in Cannes by Wim Wenders’ “Anselm,” which will world premiere in the Special Screening section, and two German short films have their world premieres as part of Directors’ Fortnight. Twelve German minority co-productions also made it into the Cannes lineup.

The garden party, held on the lawns of the Mondrian Hotel, attracted, among others, German actor Christian Friedel, who is a lead actor in Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest,” which is a favorite for the Palme d’Or in Cannes; and German actor Sandra Hüller, who appears in two films in competition in Cannes: “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest,” and is best known as the star of Oscar nominated “Toni Erdmann.”

Dennis Ruh (director of the European Film Market), Carlo Chatrian (director of the Berlinale), Simone Baumann (CEO of German Films) and Mariette Rissenbeek (CEO of the Berlinale)
Dennis Ruh, director of the European Film Market, Carlo Chatrian, director of the Berlinale, Simone Baumann, CEO of German Films, and Mariette Rissenbeek, CEO of the Berlinale.

Also there were German star Matthias Schweighöfer, who appears soon in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” and German rising star Franz Rogowski, who appears soon in David Michôd’s “Wizards!,” opposite Pete Davidson, Naomi Scott and Orlando Bloom, and has also been cast in Andrea Arnold’s next film “Bird,” alongside Barry Keoghan.

Other Cannes festival on-screen talent at the party were French actor Pauline Pollmann, who plays Marie-Antoinette in Cannes opening film “Jeanne du Barry”; German actor Lukas Turtur, who appears in Cannes Competition title “Club Zero”; and Tunisian actors Eya Chikhaoui and Ichraq Matar, who star in “Four Daughters.”

Other guests included Austrian director Jessica Hausner, whose “Club Zero” is in Competition in Cannes; and Thanassis Karathanos, the German producer of “Four Daughters,” a contender for the Cannes’ Palme d’Or, and Ben Hania’s Oscar-nominated “The Man Who Sold His Skin.”

They were joined by French producer Philippe Bober, an Oscar nominee for “Triangle of Sadness”; Germany’s Malte Grunert, producer of Oscar nominated “All Quiet on the Western Front” and Oscar nominee “Land of Mine”; and German producers Fabian Gasmia, whose slate includes “Iron Box,” and Frank Kusche.

Also at the party were French-German-Iranian director Emily Atef, whose “Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything” was in competition in Berlin; Italy’s Carlo Chatrian, artistic director of the Berlin Film Festival, and the Netherland’s Mariëtte Rissenbeek, the executive director of the Berlin Film Festival; Austrian director Feo Aladag; German actors Numan Acar, Veronica Ferres, Maximilian Mundt and Milena Tscharntke; German-French actor Jeanne Goursaud; and Austrian actor Philipp Hochmair.

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