1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
A scene from US director Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds"
Germany funded Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," which stars Brad PittImage: Universal

Calling the shots

May 21, 2009

With three co-productions in the competition section at Cannes this year, Germany is seeking to burnish its credentials as a major global film player and promote itself as a sought-after movie-making destination.


Where are the German films at Cannes? It's a question being asked in the German media as critics look in vain for heavyweight names, such as directors Fatih Akin ("Head-On") and Florian von Donnersmarck ("The Life of Others") at the European film industry's most prestigious and glitzy event.

At a time when German films have tasted nearly unprecedented domestic and international success, with nominations and prizes reaching right up to the gilded Oscars, the absence of German film stars at Cannes is all the more galling, so the argument goes.

But experts in the film business say looking for a strictly "German" film at Cannes is pointless at a time when movie-making has long transcended geographical borders.

"This whole discussion in the media – particularly in the German media – about whether there's a 'German' film among the productions is totally obsolete," Christian Berg from the Media Board Berlin Brandenburg told Deutsche Welle.

"We live in a globalized world today; almost all films are produced internationally. We have to learn to be proud of our German co-productions and represent them as ours."

Nazi slayer film gets big-bucks German funding

"Co-productions" is indeed the buzzword at Cannes now that studios are reeling under the global financial crisis, budgets are being cut and filmmakers and studios are looking for ways to beat the recession.

Germany has three star-studded co-productions in the running for the prestigious Palme d'Or this year -- Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" and Austrian director Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon."

All three were largely financed by German production companies, some star German actors and one was shot entirely in Germany.

Quentin Tarantino with a part of the cast from
Star power - Tarantino, second from left, with part of the cast from "Inglourious Basterds"Image: picture alliance / landov

US director Tarantino's gangster flick and wartime caper, starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a ruthless gang of Nazi slayers, was the most keenly awaited film at Cannes on Wednesday.

Shot in English, German and French, "Inglourious Basterds" also features 45 German actors, including stars Daniel Bruehl, Til Schweiger and Martin Wuttke. The film received a whopping 7.5 million euros ($10.3 million) in funding from Germany.

The film's executive producer says it's this kind of support that has made Germany a favorite location for international film projects.

"These productions are a great springboard for everyone involved in the making of films, from the actors to directors, camera operators, lighting directors and producers – if those positions are filled by local people," Carl Woebcken of Studio Babelsberg said.

"It's great for them to be able to use the skills they've learned working on German productions and it leads to an improvement in the standards of German films, too."

"A force to be reckoned with"

"Antichrist," acclaimed Danish director Lars von Trier's latest film debuting at Cannes, features Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in a domestic tragedy loaded with graphic sex, torture and mutilation. The film was shot entirely in forests in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia in western Germany and produced by a German company.

"The difficult thing was to find the forest, and then the logistics. When you're filming 40 days in the woods you have to deal with everything from wastewater disposal to power supplies. We had a hundred people. We had to do all that without damaging the forest," Bettina Brokemper who organized the on-location filming told Deutsche Welle.

Director Lars von Trier, center with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg
Director Lars von Trier, center, with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte GainsbourgImage: picture-alliance / dpa

"But we found the location, and we had a reputation for doing a precise job. And Lars also has a very precise way of working."

"The White Ribbon," the only German-language film in the competition at Cannes, is a darkly disturbing portrait of a Protestant village in northern Germany in 1913. It too was largely bankrolled by a German production company.

In addition, three other films in other categories at Cannes are German co-productions.

That is proof enough, some say, of Germany capitalizing on its strengths as a global film production and organization hub.

"It really is a reflection of the boom in German films in recent years," German producer Alfred Huermer told Deutsche Welle.

"We are now a serious force to be reckoned with in the whole world as a country for co-productions."

Editor: Nancy Isenson

Skip next section Explore more