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Wunder-ful wave hits Austrian filmmakers

Coop99 at forefront of key pics

BERLIN — Forget the Danes: the Austrians are the latest film community that’s producing idiosyncratic arthouse pics by a coterie of national talents.

And with two pics in Competition here — “Grbavica” and “Slumming” — and an Oscar nom for “Darwin’s Nightmare,” Vienna-based outfit Coop99 is at the forefront of the Austrian Wunder.

While Coop99 came in as a co-producer on “Slumming,” they were the principal producer on the Austrian-Bosnian-Croatian-German co-prod “Grbavica.”

Latter pic is set in contempo Sarajevo and tells the story of a mother who is trying to hide a terrible secret from her daughter. Producer Barbara Albert had met the director Jasmila Zbanic in 1996 while making a doc in Sarajevo, and soon after the two decided that if Zbanic should ever direct a feature film, Albert would produce it.

Albert, like her Coop99 colleague Jessica Hausner, is one of a group of femme filmers who’ve been at the center of the Austrian avalanche. Apart from producing, she also co-penned “Slumming” and wrote “Nordrand,” and she’s working on several projects to helm.

Her femme-drama “Falling,” about five 30-ish women, is in post-production, while her first English-lingo feature, “Me,” about a white American supremacist falling in love with an illegal Asian immigrant, (with L.A.-based outfit Deviant) is in the Co-Production Market. 

She’s also working on another European co-production, which she’s currently writing and plans to direct. The untitled project is set in the anti-globalization milieu.

Apart from Albert’s pics, Coop99 is in pre-production with a black comedy by Antonin Svoboda, who’s another partner in the company.  Having already co-produced “The Edukators,” they’ll also be co-producing Hans Weingartner’s next pic.

“We inspire but we don’t influence each other,” Albert said of the current surge in Austrian creativity.

And while most people credit helmer Michael Haneke for being a catalyst of the Austrian Wunder in the same way that Lars von Trier was for the Danish Dogma movement, she insisted: “People always want to identify a father figure, but while I admire Haneke as a director, I would never reduce what’s happening in Austria to him. It’s much more complex than that.”

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