'Anonymous,' 'Stopped on Track' win big at German film awards

BERLIN - A film by Hollywood director Roland Emmerich portraying William Shakespeare as a fraud won six German Film Prize trophies on Friday at the world's most lucrative movie honours with total prize money of around US$4 million (S$5 million).

But the top award, best film, went to Andreas Dresen's"Stopped on Track" ("Halt auf freier Strecke"), a portrait of a man dying from a brain tumour. It won in four categories overall, including director, actor and supporting actor.

The six wins by "Anonymous," starring Welsh actor Rhys Ifans and filmed at Berlin's Babelsberg Studios, came mostly in technical categories such as production design, costumes, cinematography and editing.

The English-language film theorizes that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, penned works such as "King Lear" and"Macbeth," and it depicts William Shakespeare as a drunken buffoon who could barely write his own name.

When "Anonymous" was released in theatres last year, it was criticized by some Shakespeare scholars who said the theory was nonsense. It failed to earn major revenues at worldwide box offices, but did play well in Germany and even picked up an Oscar nomination in the United States for costume design.

Emmerich, better known for directing disaster movies such as"Independence Day" and "2012," told Reuters he was surprised to win so many awards, but they had not altered the way he thought about the film.

"Yes, we got some criticism in Britain, but the film was taken up really well in Germany and in the United States too,"he said after the ceremony. "The fact that the film is getting good recognition again hasn't changed things for me."

The German-born director praised working in his homeland and his local crew, saying "it's unbelievable how good it can be."

Dresen scooped up his second German Film Prize, also called a "Lola," for director, sealing his reputation as a filmmaker who is not afraid of putting difficult topics on the big screen. He previously won in 2009 for "Cloud 9", a romantic - and at times graphic - comedy about the love lives of senior citizens.

"Stopped on Track" also earned Milan Peschel a Lola for best actor and Otto Meillies claimed one for best supporting actor.

The biggest snub of the night belonged to "Barbara," a film dealing with the repressive world of Communist East Germany in 1980, which only took home the silver prize for best film despite having been nominated for eight awards.

The film follows a German doctor, played by Nina Hoss, who is banished to the East German provinces after requesting to leave the country to be with her West German lover, making her a target of Stasi persecution.

"Barbara" also narrowly missed out on top honours at the Berlin film festival, where the Golden Bear was awarded to Italian prison docu-drama "Caesar Must Die," directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.

The German government underwrites the 3 million euros (S$5 million) in prize money, which is distributed among dozens of nominated films as an indirect subsidy for future projects.

More than 1,000 industry professionals who make up the German Film Academy cast votes for the 16 categories. The Lolas are intended to reward cultural achievement rather than box office success.

Presented every year since 1951, the awards are Germany's answer to Hollywood's Oscars and Britain's BAFTA prizes.

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