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The Making of a Foreign Press Award
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

This year the Filmfest Hamburg offered for the first time the Foreign Press Award. Idea and realization of this award came from Eldad Beck who works out of Berlin for Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth Daily Newspaper. It was a nice surprise to open the Filmfest Hamburg magazine and see the face of one of my Berlinale friends here in Hamburg as a film jury member.  In February he told me he had this dream of creating a Foreign Press Award for Hamburg and in less than eight months he had put everything into motion.

Beck wanted the jury to originate from the Foreign Press Association (Verein der ausländischen Presse) in Germany. He and Albert Wiederspiel agreed the jury could see 12 films in five days.  At the end of each film there would be a discussion, and then, at the end of the day, a longer and more in-depth discussion would take place. There are about four hundred members in this association and Beck found three who were willing to take the time and had the interest to become jury members.  He was joined by Maria Stoyanova from Bulgarian National Television, Stefan May who is a freelance journalist for the news agency APA, Austria, and Antoine Verbij from the Trouw, a Dutch daily newspaper.

They had to develop guidelines for their decision. Would it be based on political or economic, cultural or social issues? Would it be an international or a German film?  Beck said that his original idea was to view solely German films as a foreign press but then it became an international selection.  The 12 candidates were nominated by the film festival committee and the jury had to cast their votes after five days’ viewing.
Eldad Beck discussed their final decision with me:
SS:  Was it difficult to arrive at the final film selection or did it stand out among the others?
EB:  No, it stood out among all others from the very beginning as a very unique film. We had very serious, sometimes "stormy" discussions on other films. But, Police, Adjectif was elected unanimously.
SS:  How were the films overall in the selection that you saw?  Were they all of a certain caliber or were there some clearly not well done?
EB: Some members of the jury thought that the films in our category had too much to do with modern human distress, and they would have liked to have seen more joyful films. However, most of the films in our category were chosen very carefully. I can think of only two films, which most of us thought did meet our expectations. 
SS: How were the discussions with your colleagues since you all came from different backgrounds and have different interests?
EB:  Although we all come from different backgrounds, our taste was not that different. Most of the films brought up the same feelings in all of us. The differences of opinion we had during our discussion had more to do with personal views and tastes than with country of origin. Without getting into details, I can say that only once did I strongly defend a film from the Middle East, whereas the others had difficulties accepting the way the film was done.
So, on Saturday, October 3, at the Filmfest Hamburg prize ceremony, hosted by Inka Schneider, the Foreign Press award made its debut and went to Police, Adjectiv directed by Corneliu Porumboiu from Romania. The jury emphasized his impressive minimalist and genius directing, excellent dialog, exceptional performance by his main actor, and even his extraordinary choice of music. Wow, I can hardly wait to see their choice next year!