Film director, screenwriter
DAAD Scholarship 1995–1996
Scriptwriter and film director Hans-Christian Schmid lives in Berlin today, but was born in Altötting in 1965, a Bavarian pilgrimage site with a reputation for being ultra-catholic. "People have strange ideas about Altötting. I grew up in a liberal family and went to a high school that was seen as leftwing. I neither went to confession nor to Sunday Mass. The first time I reflected more deeply on the phenomenon of faith was when working on my final film project at university, Die Mechanik des Wunders (The Mechanism of the Miracle)."
Thanks to the DAAD scholarship I was able to study scriptwriting with Frank Daniel and David Howard, who I had only previously known from short workshops in Germany. It was a life-time experience that continues to influence my work today.
However, he did perhaps take one aspect of his small-town upbringing with him: an eye for everyday life and the various ways in which life can be lived and how people grow with their life. A master of the art of filming, he catches scenes from the provinces with his camera and turns them into award-winning films. They have nothing in common with the sentimental and idealised rural Heimatfilm of the 1950s. His work is open, sober, critical, humorous, relentless – all at the same time – or to sum it up: authentic.
Schmid studied documentary filmmaking at the University of Television and Film Munich, from which he graduated in 1992. He chose the topic of organised piety in his birth place for his final project. In 1995, a DAAD One-Year Scholarship enabled him to study scriptwriting at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
In his first film, Himmel und Hölle (Heaven and Hell), published in 1994, Schmid focused on the depths of religious fanaticism, exemplified by a girl who gets caught up in a religious sect. It was followed by the highly successful Nach fünf im Urwald (It's a Jungle Out There), which brought the actress Franka Potente to fame. In 1998, Schmid was awarded the Adolf-Grimme-Prize as Michael Gutmann's co-author for the script of Nur für eine Nacht (Only for One Night), which tells the story of a 16-year-old boy suffering from cancer. It is one of the most prestigious German television awards. Further prizes followed, including the 1999 German Film Prize (Silver) for his film "23", the authentic story of Karl, a cocaine-addicted hacker. Later, in 2003, he won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival for Lichter (Distant Lights), film episodes about individual fates along the German-Polish border. This prize is awarded by the international federation of film critics and journalists of the same name, and he received it again in Spring 2006 for Requiem, a film that focuses once more on extreme religiousness. It also portrays an authentic case: the life of a young, mentally-disturbed woman in a small town in south-western Germany who starved to death in the 1970s after undergoing several exorcisms.
In 2007, Schmid made the documentary Die Wundersame Welt der Waschkraft (The Wondrous World of Laundry) about a German laundry on the Polish side of the River Oder. In 2008, he also completed his first international co-produced feature film Storm about a prosecutor at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague who is responsible for the case against a former commander of the Yugoslav People's Army. Both films were premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2009. At the German Film Prize ceremony in 2010 Storm won the Film Prize in Silver in the category Best Film. The awards have not ended there. In 2012, Schmid was again invited to the Berlin International Film Festival – this time with his drama Home for the Weekend. Whatever Schmid turns his hand to, it is eagerly anticipated not only by cinema and television audiences, but also the students at the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF), the Film Academy in Ludwigsburg and the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, where Schmid teaches as visiting lecturer.