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Culture

Lola is Germany's Oscar

The "German Film Prizes" were awarded to country's best productions of the past year. Germany is Europe's biggest box-office market.

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For German film-makers, winning this gold statuette is almost as exciting as winning an "Oscar"

You could have thought you were in Hollywood, not in Berlin this weekend. Movie stars strutted across a red carpet, photographers aimed their cameras and flashes at the celebrities and fans screamed ecstatically.

Deutscher Filmpreis Julian Nida-Rümelin und seine Frau Natalie von Weidenfeld

German minister of culture, Julian Nida-Ruemelin und and his wife

2000 guests descended on the city's Tempodrom theater on Friday night for the German equivalent of the Oscars: the German Film Prize, or Lola. A host of German celebrities turned out for the gala event, as did internationally known stars like U.S. singer Sheryl Crow, figure skater Katharina Witt and Bernd Eichinger, the producer of the movies "Das Boot", "Resident Evil" and "The Name of the Rose".

The Tempodrom theater was abuzz with excitement about who would win the country's most valuable cultural prize. The German government this year dished out 2.8 million euro ($2.65 million) in prize money to honor the best films, actors, directors and producers.

"Nowhere in Africa" is this year's big winner

This year, the top award -- the golden Lola for best film -- went to director Caroline Link for the movie "Nowhere in Africa". The prize for best film is worth half a million euro ($ 473,000). Director Caroline Link is best known abroad for her Oscar-nominated film "Beyond Silence".

Nirgendwo in Afrika

"Nowhere in Africa"

"Nowhere in Africa" tells the true story of a Jewish family that fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s. They emigrated to Africa and tried to make a new life for themselves as farmers in Kenya. But even in their forced exile, the German Jews suffered massive discrimination.

"Nowhere in Africa" also took four other awards, including best director, best supporting actor, best camera and best music.

Heaven Tom Tykwer

Heaven Tom Tykwer

Silver Lola awards went to "Halbe Treppe" (Grill Point), a film about two couples from the eastern German city of Frankfurt on the Oder, and "Heaven," (photo) starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi. "Heaven" is director Tom Tykwer’s follow-up to "The Princess and the Warrior."

"German films on the road to success"

Germany is Europe's biggest box-office market, and its stars have been drawing ever-bigger crowds in recent years. That's something Chancellor Gerhard Schröder emphasized as the awards ceremony for the German Film Prize got underway.

Deutscher Filmpreis Schröder Katja Riemann und August Zirner

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (right), actress Katja Riemann, actor August Zirner (center)

"The German film industry is on the road to success," Chancellor Schröder (photo) said at the gala event. "Last year, German films increased their share of the domestic box-office by one third, to 19 percent. That's the best growth figures since the mid nineteen-seventies."

Jury versus public's choice

But success at the box office wasn't what qualified movies for the German Film Prize. Some of the movies that won prizes this year were experimental films made with hand-held cameras and without a script, others were ambitious dramas that didn't do well at all commercially.

The award winners were determined by an independent jury of twelve people. They included owners of movie theaters, members of parliament and even a representative of the German Bishops' Conference. Also represented in the jury were actors, directors and producers.

When the jury decided on the winners, it totally shunned the most successful German film production of all times: Last year, more than ten million people in Germany flocked to movie theaters to see the comedy "Der Schuh des Manitu" (Manitou's Shoe) - that's one out of every eight Germans.

A German Western comedy

Der Schuh des Manitu

Manitou's Shoe

"Manitou's Shoe" is a spoof on Western movies shot in Germany in the 1960s and 70s. The films were immensely popular at the time and became part of the common consciousness of a whole generation of Germans.

In 2001, director-comedian Bully Herbig picked up on these German movie classics and produced his own spoof version of a Western. It came complete with a quirky love story, dancing cowboys and a gay Indian running a beauty parlor in the Wild West.

German movie audiences went wild over the film. And at this year's German Film Prize ceremony, their enthusiasm at least earned director Bully Herbig the two special awards determined by the public. In a survey, movie-goers chose "Manitou's Shoe" as their favorite film of the year and voted Bully Herbig as the year's best actor.

And even though there was no prize money attached to these two awards, the love of the audience may have consoled Bully Herbig for the fact that the official jury totally disregarded his film when handing out the cash prizes.

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