'System Crasher' Wins Big in Lockdown Version of German Film Awards

Berlin Film Festival
'System Crasher'

Nora Fingscheidt's debut drama, about a child on the edge who tests the limits of everyone around her, picked up eight Lolas, including best picture honors, with winners and nominees accepting their awards virtually from their homes.

System Crasher, the story of a young girl who rejects most social contact and finds her greatest happiness when forced into isolation, won big at the first, and hopefully last, quarantined version of the German Film Awards, held Friday night in Berlin.

Nora Fingscheidt's social drama System Crasher, a hit at last year's Berlin International Film Festival, had 10 nominations going into the awards and came away with eight Lolas, including for best film and director.

Fingscheidt also took home the best screenplay Lola for the script for her directorial debut. She accepted the honors via a wonky video link from Vancouver, where she is sheltering in anticipation of restarting her next project, a Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock. 

With the entire country on COVID-19 lockdown, the German Film Academy held a virtual version of the Lola ceremony. Actor and showman Edin Hasanovic hosted the gala live on German TV from an empty studio. The kudocast's big opening dance number consisted of Hasanovic hoofing it alone in a room surrounded by screens projecting classic scenes from German cinema past and present.

Individual awards were presented in a gala version of a Zoom meeting, with nominees patched in from their homes and winners giving their acceptance speeches from their respective shelters. The thanks given from the best actress winner, 11-year-old Helena Zengel, the star of System Crasher, could barely be heard over the joyous screams of her mother, who was standing just offscreen in what looked to be the family kitchen. 

System Crasher also picked up Lolas for editing and sound design, while the pic's Gabriela Maria Schmeide was tapped as best supporting actress for her performance as a social worker who struggles to help Zengel's out-of-control character Benni. 

Albrecht Schuch, a double nominee in the actor and supporting actor categories, took home both Lolas, for his leading role as a social worker in System Crasher and for his supporting role as a disturbed drug dealer, pimp and murderer in Burhan Qurbani's Berlin Alexanderplatz. Halfway through his best supporting actor award acceptance speech, Schuch switched into English to thank his Berlin Alexanderplatz co-star Welket Bengué, who portrays an African refugee dragged into the criminal underworld of the German capital in the modern-day retelling of Alfred Döblin's classic 1929 novel.

Additionally, Yoshi Heimrath won best cinematography for his lensing on Berlin Alexanderplatz, while Silke Buhr nabbed the Lola for best set design and Dascha Dauenhauer took best film score honors.

In total, Berlin Alexanderplatz picked up five Lolas, including the runner-up Silver Lola for best film. 

The German Film Academy, which hosts the Lolas, decided to go ahead with this year's ceremony despite the pandemic. It's not just a show of solidarity: Lola nominees and winners share some $3.2 million in prize money from Germany's culture ministry, cash that is earmarked for new productions and, post-crisis, will be sorely needed if the local industry is to bounce back.

Elsewhere, Lindenberg! Macht dein Ding, a biopic about German rock legend Udo Lindenberg, took home two Lolas: best makeup for Astrid Weber and Hannah Fischleder and best costume design for Sabine Böbbis.

Ilker Çatak's dramatic love story Es Gilt Das Gesprochene Wort took the third-place Bronze Lola in the best film category.

Jan Stoltz and Claudius Urban won the inaugural Lola for best visual effects and animation for bringing a communist Kangaroo to life in Dani Levy's family comedy The Kangaroo Chronicles, which was No. 1 at the German box office before the covonavirus outbreak shut down cinemas nationwide. 

Caroline Link's adaptation of Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, an autobiographical tale of Kerr's family's escape from Nazi Germany, won the Lola for best children's film.

The best documentary Lola went to Born in Evin, director Maryam Zaree's exploration of her family history and the story of her own birth in Iran's notorious Evin prison, where her parents were incarcerated for their opposition to the Tehran regime. 

In a surprise appearance, jazz singer Gregory Porter gave a live performance, via cellphone from his home in California, of his hit No Love Dying, before presenting the Lola for the most successful German film of 2019 to the Bora Dagtekin-directed comedy Das perfekte Geheimnis (The Perfect Secret).

This year's lifetime achievement award went to Edgar Reitz, director of the groundbreaking Heimat film series.