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German Filmmakers Look Beyond Their Borders

Producers embrace stories with international relevance

As German filmmakers continue to make their mark on global cinema, they increasingly embrace a film industry that transcends borders.

Indeed, only seven of the more than 30 German pics or co-productions screening at Toronto are in German.

Germany’s deep talent pool, skilled crews and high-quality facilities — not to mention generous production subsidies — have lured filmmakers from abroad to shoot in Germany or partner with German companies that excel in international co-productions.

At the same time, Teuton filmmakers are looking beyond their local market. “There is a group of German producers that would probably describe themselves as I do: International producers that happen to be based in Germany and that are looking to make films that have international relevance,” says Malte Grunert, head of Amusement Park Films.

Grunert co-produced Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man” and Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner” as well as Nordisk Film Production’s World War II pic “Land of Mine” by Danish helmer Martin Zandvliet. “Mine” opens Toronto’s inaugural Platform competition section.

Florian Gallenberger’s “Colonia” (pictured) has just the kind of international relevance Grunert describes. The Special Presentation screener is a political thriller, set in the aftermath of the Chilean military coup in 1973. The subject matter helped draw a starry international cast, headlined by Daniel Bruehl, Emma Watson and Michael Nyqvist, to the project. Producer Benjamin Herrmann of Majestic Filmproduktion says it was a “fascinating story, an exceptional script and a visionary director” that enticed the actors.

Bruehl, who recently wrapped work on Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War,” welcomes, in particular, the growing ties between the German and U.S. film industries and the burgeoning interest among Americans for European subject matter. Bruehl adds that Germany’s well-regarded studio facilities, such as Studio Babelsberg, and topnotch crews play a significant role in the country’s popularity with foreign filmmakers. “I’ve never experienced that a producer, director or actor from abroad was not very happy when they filmed here.”

Another transnational German production screening at TIFF is Atom Egoyan’s “Remember,” starring Christopher Plummer. Berlin’s Egoli Tossell partnered with Toronto’s Serendipity Point Films to co-produce the film. While the production did not tap German subsidies, the partnership was crucial in securing top German talent, says Serendipity Point executive VP Mark Musselman.

Producer Gabrielle Dumon of Paris-based Le Bureau Films worked with Cologne-based Pandora Filmproduktion on Fabienne Berthaud’s “Sky,” a U.S.-set drama starring Diane Kruger and Norman Reedus. Pandora brought financing from German regional funder Filmstiftung NRW in North Rhine-Westphalia, where the film’s post-production took place. Together they were able to put together a “difficult financial structure for a low budget, with very few but solid financing partners,” says Dumon.

Gian-Piero Ringel, co-managing director Berlin-based Neue Road Movies and producer of Wim Wenders’ “Every Thing Will Be Fine,” says Germany has the framework to take a lead role in the development, production and distribution of quality films. “As German filmmakers, we have to make use of the amazing opportunities that are available to us … to make high-quality films that push the boundaries of the art form.”

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