– The graduation film and debut feature by Swiss director Lisa Gertsch took home several prizes, including Best Feature Film, Best Script and the Critics’ Award

Electric Fields wins big at the Max Ophüls Prize

Director Lisa Gertsch with one of her prizes for Electric Fields (© Oliver Dietze)

This year’s edition of the Max Ophüls Prize took place from 22-28 January in Saarbrücken. The 45th edition of the festival dedicated to the promising new generation of German-speaking filmmakers came to an end by choosing its winners. Eighteen prizes with a total value of €118,500 were handed out.

The films competed against each other in several sections. There was a competition for fiction features, which included 13 titles from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Indeed, it was a feature from Switzerland that won three of the gathering’s most important prizes. Lisa Gertsch, a young graduate from the ZhdK, the film school in Zurich, presented her compelling debut, Electric Fields [+see also:
film review
film profile
. A jury of five people, made up of author-director Félix Koch, producer Sarika Hemi Lakhani, director Lukas Nathrath, cinematographer Sabine Panossian and actress Alicia von Rittberg, decided to give her the Award for Best Fiction Feature, endowed with €36,000.

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The jury remarked: “With dreamlike aesthetics and precision in the mise-en-scène, this film creates a timeless world: a magical universe full of loners, seekers and lovers in whom we recognise ourselves and upon whom it looks with tenderness and humour. Light as a feather, it observes interpersonal relationships with empathy, and with a sense of the misunderstandings and misadventures of life. This feature finds complexity in simplicity, fantasy in reality, strength in loss and light in darkness.” Another jury of three, composed of scriptwriter Viktoria So Hee Alz, actor-producer Daniel Blum and journalist Oliver Hottong, gave Electric Fields the Award for Best Script and accompanying prize money of €13,000. Finally, the Critics’ Award ended up going to Gertsch’s film as well.

The Award for Best Directing went to up-and-coming German filmmaker Sara Summa for Arthur & Diana [+see also:
film review
interview: Sara Summa
film profile
. With a small budget, the director managed to craft a fresh and intriguing road movie about family bonds and overcoming trauma. The award is endowed with a total of €11,000: half of that sum goes to the director and the other half constitutes distribution support. The jury said: “We are allowed to watch the characters work on each other without them losing themselves. The film dares to tell stories of normality and harmony without shying away from conflict or negotiating the big questions in life, with atmospheric visuals and a clear style that is subtle, stylistically confident and enchantingly authentic, and which testifies to a great love of cinema.”

As for Best Documentary, a jury of four awarded the prize, worth €7,500, to Echoes from Borderland by Lara Milena Brose. The film looks at European refugee politics, and the jury said of it: “The way the movie tells of this great injustice and suffering, but also of longing and hope, made a strong impression on us with its closeness to the characters, its scenic narrative style, its precise sound design, and its formal and visual elegance.”

Here is the full list of award winners:

Best Fiction Feature
Electric Fields [+see also:
film review
film profile
– Lisa Gertsch (Switzerland)

Best Social Interest Film
Good News – Hannes Schilling (Germany)

Fritz-Raff Award for Best Screenplay
Lisa Gertsch – Electric Fields

The Saarland Minister-President’s Award for Best Director
Sara Summa – Arthur & Diana [+see also:
film review
interview: Sara Summa
film profile

Best Documentary
Echoes from Borderland – Lara Milena Brose (Germany)

Best Up-and-coming Actor
Willi Geitmann – Jenseits der blauen Grenze (Germany)
Joshua Bader – Söder (Austria)

Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature Film
Jenseits der blauen Grenze – Sarah Neumann

Audience Award for Best Documentary
Der Wunsch – Judith Beuth (Germany)

Audience Award for Best Short Film
Syncope – Linus von Stumberg (Switzerland)

Audience Award for Best Medium-length Film
Land der Berge – Olga Kosanović (Austria/Germany)

Best Medium-length Film
Land der Berge – Olga Kosanović

Best Short Film
Die Räuberinnen – Isa Schieche (Austria)

Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
Jenseits der blauen Grenze – Sarah Neumann

Young Jury Award
Gotteskinder – Frauke Lodders (Germany)

Best Music in a Documentary
Johannes Blume, Markus Hossack – Berlin Utopiekadaver (Germany)

Critics’ Award for Best Feature
Electric Fields – Lisa Gertsch

Critics’ Award for Best Documentary
Exile Never Ends – Bahar Bektaş (Germany)

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