Women Behind the Cinematic Scenes
While the public can recite the names of famous German actresses, the women behind the camera often go unrecognised. We introduce ten women from the German film scene everyone should know.
By Ana Maria Michel
Caroline Link, director
Her 1998 cinematic debut Jenseits der Stille (Beyond Silence) was nominated for an Oscar. Then five years later, Caroline Link finally won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa). The director also achieved great success with her adaptation of comedian Hape Kerkeling’s autobiography, Der Junge muss an die frische Luft (All About Me) in 2018. Her most recent film, Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl (When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit), based on the novel by Judith Kerr, was released in 2019.
Annette Hess, screenwriter
Die Frau vom Checkpoint Charlie (The Woman of Checkpoint Charlie), and the Weißensee and Ku‘damm series: Annette Hess writes scripts for television films and series that explore German history. Hess studied scenic writing in Berlin, and her thesis was her first success. It served as the basis for screenplay for the feature film Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken (Love in Thoughts) by Achim von Borries. Hess is Germany’s most successful screenwriter today. Most recently, in her first role as head writer, she and her team developed the script for the Amazon series Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo set to premiere in 2021.
Thea von Harbou, screenwriter
One female screenwriter played a prominent role at the birth of German film: Thea von Harbou wrote the scripts for important silent movies in the 1920s and worked with directors like Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. With her husband, director Fritz Lang, she wrote scripts for movies like Metropolis and M. Von Harbou remains a controversial figure though. Unlike Fritz Lang, who emigrated into exile in 1933, she continued her career under the National Socialists and was a member of the NSDAP.
Regina Ziegler, producer
In 1973, Regina Ziegler founded her own production company at the tender age of 29, making her one of first women in the industry. Her first film, aslo the directing and screenplay debut of her later huband Wolf Gremm, Ich dachte, ich wäre tot (I Thought I Was Dead) , won the German Film Prize. Almost 50 years and about 500 cinema and television films later, Ziegler is considered the most successful German producer. She has produced both entertaining films and more challenging pieces, most recently Ich war noch niemals in New York (I’ve Never Been to New York) by Philipp Stölzl and Volker Schlöndorff's Rückkehr nach Montauk (Return to Montauk).
Simone Bär, casting director
The movie Good Bye, Lenin! by Wolfgang Becker not only won numerous awards; it was also catapulted actor Daniel Brühl’s to international fame. All thanks to Simone Bär, who has been bringing actors and roles together since the mid-1990s and helped others like Christoph Waltz to worldwide prominence. Bär was also responsible for casting Florian Henckel in Donnersmarck’s Oscar-winning film Das Leben der Anderen (The Life of Others).
Judith Kaufmann, cinematographer
Judith Kaufmann has operated a camera for almost 30 years now. She has been nominated for the German Film Prize several times and won the German Camera Prize. The jury's praised her work, saying “her images begin where dialogue ends.” She was most recently involved in Nur eine Frau (A Regular Woman) by Sherry Hormann and Das Vorspiel (The Audition) by Ina Weisse. Kaufmann has been a member of the Oscar Academy since 2006, but has so far declined every offer to work on Hollywood productions.
Monika Schindler, film editor
Monika Schindler does not care for the word “cutter”, preferring the title film editor. In 2017, she was the first film editor ever to receive the German Film Prize for her life's work and has been involved in more than 100 films to date. She began her career in 1965 in the GDR as a “cutting master”, as it was known, with Egon Günther’s Wenn du groß bist, lieber Adam (When You Are Grown, Dear Adam) which was banned by the East German government. Until German reunification, she worked for the GDR’s state Deutsche Film AG (Defa). She found continued success in a united Germany and has worked on movies by directors such as Andreas Dresen and Stephan Lacant.
Silke Buhr, set designer
Considered Germany’s most important set designer, Silke Buhr has recreated the Amber Room and built a house in the sea. After an apprenticeship as a carpenter, she studied interior design and scenography and now works with directors such as Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and Chris Kraus. She has received several awards, such as the 2020 German Film Prize for her work on Berlin Alexanderplatz by Burhan Qurbani. Silke Buhr built a house right on the sea for the film “Poll”. The set designer has received a number of awards for her work. | Photo (detail): © Filmstill von „Poll“
Barbara Baum, costume designer
The fabrics that tell a story: Barbara Baum, one of Germany’s most renowned costume designers, has been creating costumes for films for about 50 years. She has worked with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on projects like Fontane Effie Briest, Die Ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun) and Lili Marleen, and been involved in many historical films such as Heinrich Breloer's Buddenbrooks. Her work is not only featured in German productions, and Baum has designed costumes for international stars like Meryl Streep.
Annette Focks, film music composer
As a child Annette Focks could already play several instruments and was writing her first pieces. Setting a film student’s final project to music inspired her to pursue a career in film music. Focks has written the music for many national and international film productions, such as Bille August’s movie Nachtzug nach Lissabon (Night Train to Lisbon) and the television production Auf ewig und einen Tag (Forever and a Day) by Markus Imboden. She received the German Television Award for the music to Friedemann Fromm's Die Freibadclique (The Swimming Pool Clique).