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    nordmedia Christian Petzold – German auteur director

    By Ron Holloway | January 7, 2009

    Credit nordmedia with a key supportive hand in the striking career of Christian Petzold, acclaimed today as one of Germany’s leading auteur directors. International recognition first came when Petzold’s Die innere Sicherheit (The Inner Security, aka The State I Am In) (2000) was touted as FIPRESCI Discovery of the Year at the 2001 Cannes festival. Later, when the film was awarded a Film Band in Gold at the Lola ceremonies, The State I Am In was cited by cineastes and film historians as one of the best German films of the past decade – indeed, as a film of singular political brilliance to be placed alongside Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Die dritte Generation (The Third Generation) (1979). Although the story had been on Petzold’s mind since the early 1990s, back when he was a student at the Berlin Film Academy (DFFB), it took a decade before it could reach the screens in Germany. For Die innere Sicherheit was about the RAF, about terrorism, about hiding in the underground – in short, about themes that were generally anathema to TV producers and funding boards. Thus, it was not surprising when Petzold’s next film, Toter Man (Dead Man, aka Something to Remind Me) (2002), bypassed film commissions entirely and was made exclusively for television. “I felt I had more freedom and less interference,” said Petzold in a personal interview about his decision to seek backing from ZDF (Second German Television). The gamble paid off, for Dead Man was subsequently awarded a bundle of Adolf Grimme TV Prizes and the Golden FIPA at the Biarritz Television Festival. A psychological thriller about a woman’s pained quest to avenge the murder of her sister, it was first of Petzold’s films to star Nina Hoss.

    It was at this juncture that Jochen Coldewey and Thomas Schäffer at nordmedia in Hannover entered the picture. They have supported two of the finest German entries seen at the Berlinale: Wolfsburg (2003) and Yella (2007). In Wolfsburg, named for the industrial Volkswagen town in which it is set, a hit-and run driver, who has accidentally killed a boy on a highway, eventually seeks forgiveness from the distraught mother. Programmed as a Panorama Special at the 2003 Berlinale, the film was awarded another FIPRESCI Prize.

    In Yella, the official German competition entry at this year’s Berlinale, Nina Hoss in the title role was awarded a Silver Bear for Best Actress. The story of a young woman confronted by her inner demons while pairing her accountant skills with a conman in the investment game ( Devid Striesow outstanding as her smooth-taking partner), Yella was shot on location in Wittenberge on the Elbe River and in Hannover at the Expo Plaza. As in all of Christian Petzold’s metaphysical thrillers, the film comes across as a mosaic of images – in which sets, costumes, shots, gestures, and patchwork dialogue, taken altogether, unveil layers of personal guilt and remorse, deceit and prevarication, doubt and vacillation. Indeed, this moral tale on cut-throat business tactics appears to start and end in the middle, for the story only makes sense if turned inside out. A roadmovie that leads nowhere. A flashback with clues. An illusion rooted in reality. What will Christian Petzold have to say about German identity in his next nordmedia production!

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