Karl Baumgartner, Producer of 'Le Havre' and 'Underground' Dead at 65

Courtesy of Pandora Film Produktion
Baumgartner produced several films with Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, including "Le Havre."

Baumgartner produced with such acclaimed arthouse directors as Emir Kusturica, Aki Kaurismaki and Kim Ki-duk and was a pioneer of the European co-production model.

Karl Baumgartner, the Italian-born, German producer who helped pioneer the model of European co-productions now standard in the industry, died at his home in Frankfurt on Tuesday. He was 65.

Born in the largely German-speaking region of South Tyrol in Italy. He moved to Frankfurt in the 1970s to devote himself to his love for arthouse cinema, first as an exhibitor and operator of the legendary Harmonie theater, later as a producer/distributor with the launch, together with Reinhard Brundig, of Pandora Film in 1982.

From the start, Pandora was a beacon of arthouse cinema, championing auteur directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Leos Carax, Aki Kaurismaki, Sally Potter and Kim Ki-duk. The company has remained true to its roots, with such features as Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, Carax' Holy Motors, Ari Folman's The Congress and Fatih Akin's upcoming drama The Cut on its recent slate.

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As it became more difficult to finance such films, Baumgartner and Pandora began to combine state subsidies and regional tax credits from multiple territories to complete their budgets, a co-production financing model now virtually universal among arthouse producers.

Baumgartner's credits as a producer include Kusturica's Underground, winner of Cannes' Palme d'Or in 1995; Sandra Nettelbeck's cross over hit Mostly Martha (2001) – remade as No Reservations in 2007 starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart – and Kaurismaki's Le Havre.

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In 2012, Baumgartner received the Hollywood Reporter award for international excellence at the Cologne Conference. This year he was honored with the Berlinale Camera at the Berlin Film Festival. Kaurismaki presented him with the prize.

Following the news of his death, which came after a long illness, the Locarno Film Festival tweeted: “Very sad for the loss of great producer and Locarno’s friend Karl Baumgartner, Premio Raimondo Rezzonico 2004.”