Biopic on Folk Singer 'Gundermann' Wins German Film Prize

Pandora Filmproduktion

Andreas Dresen's drama on the life of singer-songwriter Gerhard Gundermann took six trophies at Germany's equivalent of the Oscars, including best film and best actor for star Alexander Scheer.

Gundermann, a biopic on the extraordinary and contradictory life of East German singer-songwriter Gerhard Gundermann, was the big winner Friday night at the 2019 German Film Awards.

Gundermann won six trophies, including best film, best director for Andreas Dresen and best actor for Alexander Scheer as the titular folk star.

The feature was a sleeper success in Germany, despite Gundermann being nearly unknown to western German audiences. But he was a folk hero in the east, both for his songs and for his lifestyle. Even after becoming a successful recording artist, Gudermann stayed true to his roots, continuing to work as a digger driver. But like so many in former East Germany, his life was also intertwined with the country's socialist dictatorship. Files uncovered after his death in 1998 revealed Gudermann informed on his friends and bandmates for the secret police.

Another film with a strong political current — Wolfgang Fischer’s refugee drama Styx — won four German Film Awards, or Lolas, including the runner-up Silver Lola for best film. Susanne Wolff took best actress for her role as a paramedic and amateur sailor who battles the elements, and the indifference of local authorities, to try and save a refugee from drowning.

Of Fathers and Sons, the Oscar-nominated documentary from Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki, who lives in Berlin, won two Lolas: for best documentary and best editing for Anne Fabini.

Caroline Link’s dramedy biopic The Boy Needs Fresh Air, the most commercially successful German film of 2019 so far ($32 million to date), picked up the bronze Lola for best film and best supporting actress for Luise Heyer.

Margarethe von Trotta, director of such classics as The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Rosa Luxemburg and Hannah Arendt, will receive this year's Honorary Lola for her lifetime contribution to German cinema.

Christian Becker won this year's Bernd Eichinger Prize, given to a German producer for lifetime achievement. One of the most successful film and television producers in Germany, Becker's Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver was the most successful German-language film of 2018.