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FINDING YOUR VIEW: THE GWFF BEST FIRST FEATURE AWARD text by Adam Harangozó

photo by Maximilian Bühn /Wikimedia

Besides the Talents programme, the Berlinale hosts another initiative for helping emerging filmmakers: the festival not only invites debutantes to compete with more established directors but also offers them the chance to match their films against other first timers, in their own award. As Cannes has its Caméra d'Or for the best first film, the Berlinale also presents the GWFF Best First Feature Award. The prize has been awarded since 2006 and comes with €50,000 that is split between the director and the producer. The prize is funded by the GWFF (Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film- und Fernsehrecht), a company which works with copyright issues and remuneration claims. At the same time, one of their goals is to support young talents through scholarships, artist-in-residence programmes and film promotion. The criteria for eligibility is that the film needs to be the director’s first fiction

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As a first film director, being chosen to a film festival must feel like being a small fish in a big pond. But it is not only about entering this strange new world but it’s also a moment of truth and possibly a defining movement in the future oeuvre of the director – think Godard’s Breathless or Welles’ Citizen Kane. feature that is over 60 minutes. It must have its world premiere at the Berlinale, and also, it has to compete in one of the main section of the festival (Competition, Panorama, Forum, Generation or Perspektive Deutsches Kino). This means that the film can win both the Best First Feature and the other awards as well, which has precedents starting from the very first recipient of the prize: Pernille Fischer Christensen also won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear for her film En Soap, and later prize winners Adrián Biniez’s Gigante (2009) and Mohamed Ben Attia’s Inhebbek Hedi (2016) were nominated for the Golden Bear. There are other curiosities in the history of the award. Usually one thinks of first time directors as newcomers to the industry but for example the 2016 nominee James Schamus was already an accomplished producer and screenwriter with a BAFTA, a Cannes prize, three Academy Award

photo by John MacDougal

nominations, and was, by the way, a CEO of Focus Features. Australian director Kim Mordaunt had a career in documentaries before winning the award with The Rocket in 2013. Nominations for the GWFF Best First Feature Award are decided by the heads of each award section with the festival director. In 2017, 16 directorial debuts were competing. Every year the festival director appoints a three member international jury who select the winner. Since the founding of the prize more than 10 years ago, the juries included such talents as Oscar winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, directors

Winners 2006: Pernille Fischer Christensen for En Soap (Soap) 2007: Rajnesh Domalpalli for Vanaja 2008: Kumasaka Izuru for Asyl (Asyl: Park and Love Hotel) 2009: Adrián Biniez for Gigante (Special Mention to Fredrik Edfeldt for Flickan (The Girl) 2010: Babak Najafi for Sebbe 2011: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean for On the Ice (Special Mention to John Michael McDonagh for The Guard and to Marie Kreutzer for Die Vaterlosen (The Fatherless) 2012: Boudewijn Koole for Kauwboy (Special Mention to Emin Alper for Tepenin Ardi (Beyond the Hill) 2013: Kim Mordaunt for The Rocket (Special Mention to João Viana for A batalha de Tabatô (The Battle of Tabatô) 2014: Alonso Ruizpalacios for Güeros 2015: Gabriel Ripstein for 600 Millas (600 Miles) 2016: Mohamed Ben Attia for Inhebbek Hedi (Hedi) 2017: Carla Simón for Estiu 1993 (Summer 1993)

Taika Waititi and Joshua Oppenheimer, and actors, actresses, producers, directors from all over the world. Last year the jury members were Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante, French actress Clotilde Courau, and Saudi filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh. Not coincidentally, all three had previous experiences with the festival: Courau’s screen debut was shown at the 1991 Berlinale while Bustamante and Sabbagh were actually nominated here for their first features. Last year’s winner was the Catalan film Estiu 1993 (Summer 1993) by Carla Simón, which was also nominated for a Crystal Bear and won the Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury. The director presented her project at the Berlinale Co-Production Market 2016 before going on to win the award the following year. She, as every winner since 2008, was also awarded with a viewfinder: not only a symbol of their art but also a practical instrument in their future filmmaking. As our issue revolves around the topic of gender, the distribution of the winners (not counting the special mentions) is the following: 10 male and 2 female directors.

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World of Young Cinema – The Berlinale 2018 Issue  

World of Young Cinema – The Berlinale 2018 Issue  

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