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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Congratulations to the Winners

Douglas Sirk Prize to director Julian Schnabel for his life’s work. Current film: Miral

Miral won the Douglas Serk prize at this year’s Hamburg Filmfest, and deservedly so. Julian Schnabel is a brave man to direct a movie about Palestine which isn’t about the Jewish struggle for existence, but he has succeeded in giving a fair and balanced account of life there since the State of Israel came into being in 1948.

Hind Husseini (a real person) was a young woman living in Jerusalem at that time. One day, on her way to work, she came across a group of 55 children huddled together in the street. These traumatised Palestinian children had lost their parents as the equally traumatised Jews began to take back their ancient homeland. Ms. Husseini (Hiam Abbas) took the children home and settled them into an orphanage. As their numbers grew she founded more orphanages  and decided that the orphans would all be educated so that they in turn could go out to the Palestinian refugee camps and teach the children there. These schools and orphanages are still in operation today and are continuing her policy of educating the refugee children to practice peace and cooperation.

The girl of the title Miral (Frieda Pinto) was sent to the orphanage when she was seven years old after the death of her troubled mother. When Miral grows up she is outraged at what she sees as the injustices which the Palestinian people suffer. She becomes involved in street protests, despite Ms. Husseini’s pleas. Miral suffers for her tiny part in her nation’s struggle, but she is a survivor and is someone who is now resolute in the belief that peace between Jews and Palestinians can prevail.

Julian Schnabel’s documentary style movie is set against the desolate beauty of the Holy Land. He tries to take a balanced view of the problems of that part of the world and manages to give the audience a feeling of hope for the future of all its people. ()

The International Art Cinema Industry Award
(CICAE, Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’art et dèssai) of Euro 5000 to
Nowhere Boy, director Sam Taylor-Wood, Great Britain/Canada

Samantha Taylor-Wood and scriptwriter Matt Greenhalgh present a moving and dramatic story of a boy growing up between two women squabbling for his attention, namely tight-lipped aunt Mimi (excellently played by Kristin Scott Thomas) who looks after him and his flirtatious young mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) who abandoned him when he was only five years old. This is the background of rebellious but sensitive John Lennon in his teens (excellently portrayed by Aaron Johnson).

The carefully arranged set in the style of the 1950s transports the atmosphere of post WWII England perfectly. Rebellion against the establishment and restlessness of the new generation is in the air. Elvis Presley is the hero of the day and young John wants to become like him. He finds an outlet for his anger and frustration by vigorously strumming his guitar. The temporary reunion with his mother – played by a vibrant Anne-Marie Duff – is more confusing than helpful to the teenager. The relationship seems almost incestuous when she dances and parties with her son. But she also introduces him to music and teaches him to play the banjo.

When John forms a school band called “The Quarrymen”, a shy youngster called Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster) is keen to join. Despite his age he is already some expert guitar player. It is interesting to see the relationship developing between quiet baby-faced Paul and the seemingly tough John.

The movie is based on a memoir by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird. For her impressive directorial debut Samantha Taylor-Wood received the Art Cinema Award. ()

Hamburg Film Critics’ Award to Pulsar, director and script Alex Stockmann, Belgium
For the review refer to the article: And the Winner is...

Foreign Press Award to Beyond, director Permilla August, Sweden

Leena (34) is happily married with a loving family. Her own dark and painful childhood experiences are successfully suppressed until she has to face her dying mother. This thrilling psychological family drama is skilfully filmed, smoothly incorporating scenes from the child’s perspective. The story of domestic abuse is an adaptation of the Swedish bestseller Svinalängorna by Susanna Alakoski which is also the original title of the movie.

Pernilla August, a well-known Swedish actress, presents her first film as a director which earned her the directorial debut prize in Venice. A stellar cast with Noomi Rapace (of the Stieg-Larsson-Triology), Ola Rapace and Finnish actors Ville Virtanen and Outi Mäenpää make it a memorable, if haunting, experience. The child Leena is played by the rising star Tehilla Blad.  ()

Best First Film Award (Die Elfe) of Euro 5000 to Shrouds, director Shalom Hager, Israel

Häagen-Dazs Audience Prize of Euro 5000 to Oldboys, director Nikolaj Steen, Denmark

Montblanc Screenplay Award of Euro 10,000 to Pete the Heat, director and script, Henna Peschel, Germany
For the review refer to the article: Hamburg is the Star

TV Producer Prize of Euro 30,000 to Etwas Besseres als den Tod, director Nicole Weegmann, Germany

Short film, Student Prize of Euro 10,000 to Hamburg Wildlife, directors Gido Griese/Jens Lorenz, Germany

Best Children’s Film (Michael Award) of Euro 5000 to Spork, J.B. Ghuman Jr., USA
For the review refer to the article: Coming of Age is like being between a Spoon and a Fork 

May we boo the Senator of Culture?

Julian Schnabel received the Douglas Sirk award for his life’s work. Several VIPs spoke highly of his accomplishments, including Reinhard Stuth, Hamburg’s Senator of Culture. He has not been on the job very long and was loudly booed by the audience. Schnabel had no clue what or who was so unpopular. Did anyone take time to explain to him that the Deutsches Schauspielhaus and the Altona Museum stand to be closed down? Money is tight for culture and film fans expressed their displeasure. On the other hand is one allowed to receive an important prize in an important city while wearing pyjamas? But that’s another story. 

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