Christian Petzold’s “Undine,” for which Paula Beer won the Silver Bear for best actress at the Berlin Film Festival, has won the Arab Critics’ Award for European Films. Petzold received the award virtually at the Cairo Film Festival, which is running physically until Thursday.
The award, which was launched by European Film Promotion and Arab Cinema Center last year, was voted for by 56 film critics from 14 Arab countries. Twenty-two European films had been nominated by the European film institutions that comprise EFP.
The film, which plays as part of Cairo’s official selection, centers on Undine, who works as a historian and lecturer in urban development in Berlin. When the man she loves leaves her, the myth of Undine haunts her.
In the myth, the water spirit Undine can only lead an earthly life and attain a soul through the love of a human being. When her lover betrays her, Undine must kill him and return to the water.
Petzold’s recent films all had explicit historical or political backgrounds, but with “Undine” he chose a fairytale as his point of departure. However, the films are more similar than they may seem. Like “Barbara,” “Phoenix” and “Transit,” “Undine” is a story about love. “They tell of an impossible love, or a damaged one, or one that perhaps evolves,” Petzold said when the film debuted in Berlin. “This time I wanted to make a film in which you see how love develops and remains.”
Accepting the award, Petzold said: “Three years ago, when I was at the film festival in Cairo, I had already started thinking about ‘Undine.’ At the end of the festival – we were invited for a sailing trip on the Nile – I was talking about the story of the German myth of Undine, and we found ourselves wondering how an Undine who rises from the waters of the Nile would look like.”
IFC Films acquired U.S. rights to “Undine” from The Match Factory, which handles global rights.