For the first time in its 15-year history, the European Film Academy awarded its coveted top prize to a German production. It’s now on to Hollywood for the heart-warming box office hit by Wolfgang Becker.
German actor Daniel Bruehl is Europe's best actor.
And the winner is ... "Good Bye Lenin." Not just once, but six times Wolfgang Becker’s bittersweet film about a teenage boy who tries to preserve a slice of communist East Berlin was awarded a prize by the European Film Academy Saturday evening.
poster for Good Bye Lenin
The film, which topped Germany’s box office this year with nearly $40 million was the clear winner with both jury and audience agreeing that "Good Bye Lenin" was Europe’s best film of the year. In addition, the jury crowned Daniel Brühl best actor and hailed Bernd Lichtenberg best screenwriter. The public bestowed the film with three people’s choice awards for best actor, best actress (Katrin Saß) and best director.
Recreating East Berlin
The comedy drama tells the story of a German teenager, Alex (Brühl), who struggles to recreate life in communist East Berlin in order to protect his ailing mother (Saß), who fell into a coma just days before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. When the mother, a devoted communist, wakes up eight months later, doctors warn Alex that the shock of the changes sweeping the country could kill her.
Erik Honecker belongs to any recreation of East Germany
With the help of his sister and friends, Alex painstakingly rebuilds a mini East German world in their apartment, removing all traces of capitalism that had entered East Germany in the last months. But as his mother becomes more mobile and begins to ask questions, the illusion becomes increasingly complicated until Alex is forced to re-enact the fall of the Wall and the opening of the East.
More than just German unification
"The film may be local to Berlin but its message and the emotions can be understood around the world -- a son’s love for his mother," Becker described his film to reporters at a news conference after the award ceremony. "It’s more than just a story about German unification," he said.
And certainly audiences around the world picked up on that message, making the film one of the biggest German film successes outside the country. Shown in 68 countries, "Goodbye Lenin" has attracted some 7 million viewers.
Next step: the Oscars
After winning a series of coveted prizes this year, among them the Berlinale and the German Film Prize, Becker’s film has one more triumph to add to its list of accolades -- the Oscar nominations on January 2004 for best foreign film.
But Becker, who admits to having doubts about "Good Bye Lenin" during production, is modest when asked about his chances of crossing the red carpet in Hollywood. "We’ve just got to wait and see what happens," he commented.