‘The Teachers’ Lounge’ Takes Top Prize at 2023 German Film Awards, Beating Oscar Winner ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’

The Teachers’ Lounge, İlker Çatak’s unsettling look at a teacher at the end of her rope, beat out multi-Oscar winner All Quiet on the Western Front to win the top prize for best film at the 2023 German Film Awards, known as the Lolas.

Çatak won the best director Lola and his drama also picked up prizes for best screenplay and best editing, as well as the best actress nod for star Leonie Benesch.

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But All Quiet did not go home empty-handed. The first German-language adaptation of the Erich Maria Remarque classic 1929 anti-war novel won nine Lolas, including the runner-up silver Lola for best film.

Holy Spider, Ali Abbasi’s Iranian serial killer movie, which premiered in Cannes last year and was largely financed out of Germany, won the third prize Lola in bronze.

This year’s Lolas were held amid an atmosphere of turbulence and soul-searching. Recent revelations about the behavior of Till Schweiger, one of Germany’s biggest stars, on the set of Manta Manta 2 — this year’s biggest German box office hit — have sparked calls for a binding “code of conduct” to prevent abuse and exploitation. Schweiger is accused of numerous incidents of bullying and at least one physical altercation, after he arrived on set drunk. Manta Manta 2 producer Constantin Film has launched an independent investigation into the allegations.

German Culture Minister Claudia Roth has called on the German film industry to clean up its act, suggesting the government could otherwise make code of conduct regulations binding for any film that receives state subsidies.

Legendary director Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum), the winner of this year’s lifetime achievement award, made reference to the debate in his acceptance speech. “We don’t need a ‘code of conduct … Respect and decency, as in life, is all that’s required.” But Schlöndorff admitted the need for reform, both in the German industry and within the German Film Academy, which hands out the Lolas.

Even the nominations were controversial this year. AG Kino, an association of German arthouse cinema owners, called out the 12 nominations for All Quiet on the Western Front, noting the Netflix film was barely released in cinemas ahead of its online bow, and criticized the German Film Academy for ignoring Afire, the new film from arthouse favorite Christian Petzold, which debuted in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear.

The global success of All Quiet — which won four Oscars this year, including the prize for best international feature — has sparked a broader debate within Germany about the country’s film subsidy system. Edward Berger’s new adaptation of the anti-war classic was made without any German state support. The German culture ministry, which provides the prize money for the Lola awards — the trophies come with lucrative cash bursaries, including $536,000 (€500,000) for the best film honor — has used All Quiet as an example of how streaming services have dramatically changed the film industry and as an argument for a major overhaul of the country’s bureaucratic film funding system. The German funding model still privileges traditional releases — in order to secure state support, most projects have to guarantee they will be screened in cinemas — even as fewer Germans are watching local films in theaters. One proposal is to have Netflix and other major streaming companies contribute more to funding German movies. Culture Minister Roth would also like to see a decoupling of funding for commercial movies or ones aiming for a commercial audience, and documentaries, shorts, first-time works and artistic films.

The full list of 2023 German Film Award winners follows.

Best Feature Film

The Teachers’ Lounge, produced by Ingo Fliess

Best Feature Film in Silver

All Quiet on the Western Front, produced by Malte Grunert

Best Feature Film in Bronze

Holy Spider, produced by Sol Bondy and Jacob Jarek

Best Director

Ilker Çatak for The Teachers’ Lounge

Best Screenplay

Johannes Duncker and Ilker Çatak for The Teachers’ Lounge

Best Leading Actress

Leonie Benesch for The Teachers’ Lounge

Best Leading Actor

Felix Kammerer for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Supporting Actress

Jördis Triebel for In a Land That No Longer Exists

Best Supporting Actor

Albrecht Schuch for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Cinematography

James Friend for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Editing

Gesa Jäger for The Teachers’ Lounge

Best Sound

Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Viktor Prášil, Lars Ginzel and Alexander Buck for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Original Score

Volker Bertelmann for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Set Design

Christian M. Goldbeck for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Costume Design

Tanja Hausner for Sisi & Ich

Best Hair and Make-Up

Heike Merker for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Visual Effects

Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller, and Markus Frank for All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Documentary

Elfriede Jelinek – Die Sprache von der Leine lassen, produced by Martina Haubrich and Claudia Wohlgenannt

Best Children’s Film

Mission Ulja Funk, produced by Roshanak Behesht Nedjad

Most Commercially Successful Film

The School of Magic Animals Part 2

Lifetime Achievement Honor

Volker Schlöndorff

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