Germany celebrates Cannes success

Three Teutonic-financed films take prizes

BERLIN Germany celebrated an extraordinarily rich haul from Cannes this year, applauding the three pics made with Teutonic coin and full of home-grown talent that won prizes at the French festival, which had long snubbed its neighbor.

While none were completely German projects, Munich-born helmer Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”; Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” shot at Babelsberg; and Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” also filmed in Germany, were all quickly adopted as Teutonic-influenced successes.

“It’s a phenomenal triple success for Germany as a film production site,” says German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann, the driving force in the Berlin government behind the $95 million-a-year Federal Film Fund, launched in 2007, that has galvanized the local industry and attracted scores of major international productions.

Although Waltz, who won best actor for “Inglorious Basterds,” and Haneke are both actually Austrian nationals, the three pics were made with some $15 million in German support.

“It’s just incredible,” said X-Filme topper Stefan Arndt, whose shingle produced “The White Ribbon.” “It’s just fabulous to see a German film with a German story singled out for the whole world to see. Evidently there’s still a lot of interest in German material.”

Filmstiftung NRW topper Michael Schmid-Ospach adds: “Cannes ’09 was a wonderful moment for Germany.”

Germans had previously been unhappy as, year after year, not a single German pic was included in the Cannes competition lineup.

“Germany’s back on the world’s cinema map 30 years after Volker Schloendorff’s ‘The Tin Drum’ and 25 years after Wim Wenders won the Palme d’Or for ‘Paris, Texas,’ ” the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper wrote. Neumann credits the federal fund, which awards up to 20% of a film’s budget if enough of it is spent in Germany, for a large part of the recent success. Despite the tough times, Neumann has pushed through four budget increases for Germany’s cultural spending, an overall boost of nearly 8%, since taking office in 2005. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the market share of German filmmakers at home rose to 26.6% in 2008, its highest level since German unification two decades ago.

The grants from the fund, which he helped to create in order to help galvanize the German film industry, run parallel to another $320 million in existing German film board subsidies. The cash has lured others, such as Tom Cruise (who got $7 million of his $80 million budget for “Valkyrie”), Stephen Daldry (who got $5.7 million for “The Reader”) and Roman Polanski (see separate story) to Germany by sprinkling some $200 million among more than 200 films. That investment sparked a total of $1.5 billion in total spending in film production, about 75% of which was done in Germany.

Tarantino got $8.7 million for “Inglourious Basterds” along with further coin from the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and the Mitteldeutsche Medienfoerdunger (MDM), while Haneke received about $3 million and von Trier got $1.5 million from NRW for his pic filmed over 40 days in a rural German area of Bergisches Land. “If I hadn’t already been depressed, I would have gotten depressed there,” the great Dane quipped about the pic’s remote location.