International Feature Film Competition for Women Directors

With 69 feature films from almost 40 different countries, the number of entries for our International Feature Film Competition for Women Directors rose once again. A sure sign of the growing popularity and reputation of this €25,000 award which, aimed solely at women film directors, is unique in Germany. This year‘s shortlist also gives an important overview of the wide and varied creativity of women film directors from all over the world. The festival is pleased to present the work of directors who, having made an acclaimed debut, now have to meet the pressure of expectations and bring off an interesting follow-up! However, we are also pleased to present the work of women film-makers who have succeeded over the years in building up a consistent and sophisticated oeuvre on a fiercely competitive market.

Eight films on one shortlist cannot hope to be representative. But with two films from France on the list – Stella and Les bureaux de Dieu (God‘s Offices) – this is a good indication of how strong and productive French women film directors are in any international comparison. A situation that can be ascribed to the still exceptional film promotion system in France. Two of the items – Liu lang shen gao ren (God Man Dog) from Taiwan and Niu lang zhi nu (Knitting) from China – may be seen as proxy for the abundance of formally, aesthetically and thematically interesting and innovative works from Asia which have been screened over recent years at our festivals and sometimes in cinemas as well. They narrate, albeit in different ways, of how their protagonists falteringly try to find their feet in the megacities of a globalised world.

Léa Pool‘s new film Maman est chez le Coiffeur (Mommy Is at the Hairdresser‘s) is a visually stunning tragicomic depiction of a summer that can only seem so infinitely long and shimmering from the perspective of childhood. It serves its Canadian director as a prism through which, with consummate ease, she can tell of homosexuality, emancipation and portents of the 1968 upheavals. Similarly spot-on is the work of Sylvie Verheyde whose Stella evokes her own childhood in the weird and wild 1970s and, at the same time, raises questions about social class affiliation and educational opportunity.

The main characters in Kelly Reichardt‘s Wendy and Lucy (USA) and Michaela Pavlátová‘s Děti Noci (Night Owls) (Czech Republic) are older. But things are not much better for these young women either. Ms Reichardt abandons Wendy still desperately seeking a livelihood in the middle of nowhere and delivers a laconic reflection on the American Dream. For her part, Ms Pavlátová – who presented her first short films
in Dortmund some years ago – narrates of the remarkable lethargy her protagonist Ofka goes through before attaining adulthood. This refusal to take decisions and/or to sustain them is also one of the topics touched on in Maren Ade‘s Alle Anderen (Everyone Else), a chamber play about love and gender roles produced here with wonderful actors.

_Stefanie Görtz


Maria von Heland

Maria von Heland is a writer and director. The Swedish woman, who lives in Berlin, wrote the script for Kai Wessel‘s Hilde, which has just had its premiere. Some of her most well-known directing works are Suddenly Gina (2007), Big Girls don’t Cry (2002) and Recycled (1999). Maria von Heland was born in 1965 in Stockholm. After studying journalism at Rider College in Lawrenceville, she attended acting courses in New York and Paris. Later she studied in Los Angeles at the School of Film and Video of the California Institute of the Arts and at the Film and Television Academy »Konrad Wolff« in Potsdam-Babelsberg. Her first short film Chainsmoker (1997) won many awards, including the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Short Film Prize. Von Heland worked for Swedish television and as a screenplay developer for production companies in Sweden and the USA. She is currently preparing her new feature film project, Hector’s Journey, based on the novel by François Lelord.

Paola Paoli

Paola Paoli is a media scientist, curator, co-founder of the Laboratorio Immagine Donna and director of the Florence International Women‘s Film Festival, organised by this group since 1979. Since 2005, she has also been responsible for the Italian section of the Festival for Women Filmmakers from Mediterranean Countries. After graduating in Philosophy and History, she worked as a technician in the fields of audiovisual media and theory of mass communication and was involved in several research projects. Paoli is a lecturer in the field of Women and Film at the University of Florence.

Franziska Petri

Actress Franziska Petri won the Best Actress award at the Berlinale 2009 in the context of the Perspektive Deutsches Kino – for her role in Für Miriam, a low-budget-production by directing student Lars-Gunnar Lotz. Franziska Petri had her first main television roles while she was still studying at the School of Dramatic Arts »Ernst Busch« Berlin. She made her cinema debut in Michael Gwisdek’s Das Mambospiel. Her breakthrough came in 2000 with Vanessa Jopp’s film Vergiss Amerika, which won the Bavarian Film Award along with numerous other prizes, and which was nominated for the German and European Film Award. This year‘s International Women‘s Film Festival Dortmund | Cologne is presenting her most recent film in its Independent Minded Young Actresses section: the RAF drama Schattenwelt (2008) by Connie Walther.