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Film

German Film Awards 2016: too elitist for some, too commercialized for others

The German Film Awards, also called Lola Awards, have changed names a few times over the years. Just like the Oscars, they honor the most outstanding films of the last year - but have also been criticized in recent past.

Er ist wieder da

"Er ist wieder da" ( 'Look Who's Back') is among the movies nominated for best film

The annual German Film Awards ('Deutscher Filmpreis') - also known as the Lola Awards - are regarded as the most important awards in the German film industry. They're also the most highly endowed cultural awards in Germany.

The Lolas started in 1951, with the annual awards ceremony usually held in Berlin. The Lolas have always been quite controversial over the years, as choosing winning movies and actors is considered to be a rather arbitrary decision. When it comes to the cultural sphere, who is to say who or what is best?

Promoting mediocrity?

Some productions have come under fire for allegedly being too popular and commercialized, while others have been attacked for being too intellectual and elitist. And some critics even claim that the German Film Awards only honor works of mediocre quality. Could there be any truth to those claims?

A Hologram for the King

Blockbuster hits like Tom Tykwer's "A Hologram for the King" have been criticized for being too commercial to be nominated

A leading German daily newspaper joined the chorus of critics claiming that the German Film Academy - which is in charge of selecting the winners - was sending a negative signal to young and aspiring film makers, discouraging them from exploring original and experimental content.

The paper added that the German Film Awards were increasingly starting to resemble the German Music Awards, known as the "Echos," which are also said to focus on commercial success rather than artistic merit.

Special category

One look at past winners, especially from recent years, and things don't seem to look that gloomy: movies like "Victoria" (2015), "Oh Boy" (2013), and "Das weiße Band" (2010) have succeeded as "best film" in the past, with creativity certainly topping box-office success in those instances.

4 Könige

Some critics say that there aren't enough edgy movies like "4 Könige" ('Four Kings') featured at the Lolas - while others complain there are too many

The academy even created a special category to honor popular movies, making sure that box office hits are neither ignored nor unduly honored but respected in their own right. Recent examples of movies winning in this category include "Honig im Kopf" and "Fack Ju Göhte 1 & 2."

At the end of the day, the Lolas offer a sound overview of movies produced in the German-speaking world. There are always movies that will be neglected, but these don't necessarily have to be niche films. The same holds true for the Oscars in Hollywood.

In fact, it appears to be ironic that one particular German film, which has received great reviews around the globe this year, is not nominated at the Lolas: "Toni Erdmann" by Maren Ade, which received a nomination as "best film" at the Cannes Film Festival and had widely been expected to actually win in that category, is ignored at the German Film Awards this year.

And these are the films nominated for "Best Film":

"Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer" ('The People vs. Fritz Bauer') by Lars Kraume

"Er ist wieder da" ( 'Look Who's Back') by David Wnendt

"Ein Hologramm für den König" ('A Hologram fort he King') by Tom Tykwer

"Grüße aus Fukushima" ('Greetings from Fukushima') by Doris Dörrie

"Herbert" ('Herbert') by Thomas Stuber

"4 Könige" ('Four Kings') by Theresa von Eltz