On the Screen (MD 2023/1)
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On the Screen (MD 2023/1)

Luebeck (Germany) 2022

At the 64th Nordic Film Days Luebeck (November 2-6, 2022), the INTERFILM Jury awared the Church Film Prize, endowed with €5000 by the Evangelical Church District Luebeck-Lauenburg, to the film Walad Min Al Janna | Boy From Heaven directed by Tarik Saleh (Sweden, France, Finland, Morocco, Denmark, 2022).

Motivation: This is a film about a world where truth is disregarded. A young man visits the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo and gets caught up in the power struggle between the political and religious elite there. He is forced into a system where religion is being used as a mask. The film reveals the source of real wisdom and personal conviction of the main character. Some may call him Angel or just a “boy from heaven”.

In addition, the Jury awarded a Commendation to the film Metsurin tarina | The Woodcutter Story directed by Mikko Myllylahti (Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, 2022) for the transposition of the Book of Job into the Finnish darkness.

The Members of the 2022 Jury: Ilze Abrama, Latvia (President of the Jury); Svenja Leppin, Germany; Markus Manzer, Germany; Marie Starck, Sweden.

Cottbus (Germany) 2022

The Ecumenical Jury at the 32nd Film Festival Cottbus – Festival for East European Cinema (November 8-13, 2022) awarded its Prize to Minsk directed by Boris Guts (Estonia, 2022).

Motivation: Julia and Pasha are a young couple in love. They are dreaming about starting a family in Minsk in 2020, where they live a normal life. Suddenly, everything changes, when they find themselves in the middle of political protests. Facing violence and torture by the police, they are confronted with a feeling of helplessness and the question, how can you fight “fair” for your own existence and values?

Minsk shows how especially the young people of Minsk are not willing to accept their totalitarian government anymore. They have not given up and fight for their human rights like democracy and freedom. This gets especially obvious in a conversation between Julia, Pasha and one protestor, who has rescued them from their police captivity. The comparison of a football game to the protestor raises the ethical question, which rules apply in a conflict like this and how those, who do not play by the rules could be “sent off”?

Moreover, the movie depicts how toxic a connection between the institutional church and a totalitarian system could be. This One-Shot-Movie thrills its audience through its combination of plot and cinematographic style and lets no one leave the cinema untouched.

The Ecumenical Jury awarded an honourable mention to Sermon to the Fish directed by Hilal Baydarov (Azerbaijan/Mexico/Switzerland/Turkey, 2022).

Motivation: This movie is a cinematographic meditation referring to a spiritual dimension, which reflects the current problems of today’s world (pollution, war, solitude) and the search for a divine voice.

Members of the 2022 Jury: Martin Horálek (Czech Republic) – president; Simone Münch Egli (Switzerland); Agnès Ravoyard (France); Gereon Terhorst (Germany).


Still from Valeria Mithatenet (Valeria is getting married) described by Drew Burnett Gregory on Autostraddle (19 September 2022) as “a tight, powerful film with strong performances, nuanced writing… and cinematography that suffocates its primary location without ever feeling boring. Once again, Vinik has made a political film that centers the humanity of her individual characters above simple messages.”

Mannheim-Heidelberg (Germany) 2022

At the 71st International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg held November 17-27, 2022, the Ecumenical Jury, appointed by INTERFILM and SIGNIS; awarded its Prize, endowed with €2,500 by the Catholic German Bishops Conference and the Evangelical Church in Germany, to the film Valeria Mithatenet (Valeria Is Getting Married) directed by Michal Vinik (Israel, Ukraine, 2022).

Motivation: What happens in this film, and why, unfolds in a swirling, brilliantly constructed, written and directed drama with moments of humour, as well. A chamber play at its best, where not only interests and emotions collide, but also countries. Might freedom be more important than a comfortable life gained through an arranged marriage? The director observes her characters with lucidity and tenderness, especially the sisterhood bonding two women who seek emancipation between two countries: Israel and Ukraine.

The members of the 2022 Jury were: Chantal Laroche-Poupard, France (President of the Jury); Bärbel Mauch, Germany; Péter Muszatics, Hungary.

Saarbruecken (Germany) 2023

The Max Ophuels Prize at the Saarbruecken film festival (January 23-29, 2023) was awarded by the Ecumenical Jury to Five Star, directed by Birgit Möller (Germany, 2023).

Motivation: What does it mean to be oneself? Can one also be many? In young Franky’s head live a whole bunch of weird birds, like the strict concierge, the seductive chambermaid and an oddball elevator boy. Just when Franky thinks she has managed to get her real life together, the hotel staff interfere and mix everything up. Reality and Franky’s fantastic mental hotel are connected by a lift – until it breaks down. Despite her peculiarity, Franky just wants to find love.

Playfully, director Birgit Möller and lead actress Lena Urzendowsky lead us through Franky’s rollercoaster of emotions. The film brings lightness to the complex and topical subject of psychological stress. This makes it possible for us to visit Franky’s head cinema and feel comfortable there. An extraordinary, vibrant film that builds a bridge between worlds.

The Max Ophuels Prize is endowed with € 2500 by the Katholische Erwachsenenbildung Saarland – Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft e.V. and the Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Evangelische Erwachsenenbildung im Saarland e.V., represented by the Evangelische Akademie im Saarland.

Members of the 2023 Jury: Tom Alesch, Germany (President of the Jury); Sabrina Maas, Germany; Christa Miranda, Switzerland; David Sedláček, Czech Republic.

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