A young director's debut about the East German secret police curried almost all the awards at the German Film Prize ceremony.
Actor Ulrich Mühe won Germany's Oscar-equivalent
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck took home his first golden Lola, as the German national film prize is called, for "Das Leben der Anderen" (The Lives of Others) on Friday night in Berlin. The award is worth 500,000 euros ($638,000).
"I owe this trophy to those who read the screenplay without prejudice," the 32-year-old announced as he picked up the first of eight Lolas for his feature film.
The movie is an intense look at a committed East German secret police officer who gradually becomes disillusioned with the system he has worked to uphold. He finally switches sides and tries to protect a woman he was assigned to spy on.
Actor Ulrich Mühe, who played the Stasi officer, received the German Film Academy's prize for best male actor on Friday, while the movie also garnered awards for best supporting male actor, best screenplay, best camera and best art direction.
In granting the film its top prize, the Academy sent a clear political signal. With his movie, Henckel von Donnersmarck, who was born and grew up in West Germany, has been credited with reviving the debate over the Stasi.
Director Hans-Christian Schmid's film "Requiem," which was based on the true story of a girl who died after an exorcism, was honored with a silver Lola. Sandra Hüller, who played the girl, received the prize for best female actor.
Detlev Buck's film hit a nerve
Veteran German director Detlev Buck also took home a silver Lola for "Knallhart" (Tough Enough), an unflinching depiction of inner-city gang violence. The film drew copious attention when it showed at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. It presaged only by a few months a debate over violence among school children that has been raging in Germany ever since police had to be called in to a Berlin school to prevent violence in the very district Buck's film took place.