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“I see lots of opportunities, but there’s still much to be done”

What is the situation of contemporary German film? Which topics are particularly relevant at the moment? We spoke to director Sophie Linnenbaum. 

Klaus LüberKlaus Lüber , 25.01.2024
Film director Sophie Linnenbaum
Film director Sophie Linnenbaum © Jonas Ludwig Walter

Ms Linnenbaum, as a successful up-and-coming director, how do you see the situation for young filmmakers in Germany right now?
That’s a difficult question: the industry is always changing and there’s sometimes a lot of fluctuation. Generally speaking there are lots of opportunities in Germany to gain a foothold in the film industry – but of course they vary greatly depending on the department or job, and also whether you want to work in television or cinema. What is more, it’s still quite a homogeneous sector in many respects, though there’s a gradual fragmentation process going on due to various factors.

What are the challenges that young filmmakers face in Germany today?
That’s really a political question. The German film scene is engaged in a permanent debate on what culture and cultural success really mean. Is it profitability that counts, or artistic brilliance? Are the two compatible? Can artistic value be measured? And is that even allowed? As I see it, the structure of the German production environment provides both a safety net and a leash. With its broadcasting companies, subsidies and now streamers too, it offers a wide range of possibilities. This naturally involves uncertainties, dependencies, bureaucracy and disputes, but there are wide-ranging opportunities as well.  There’s still a lot that needs to be done in terms of (social) sustainability, diversity and ensuring a clearer focus on artistic quality. 

Generally speaking there are lots of opportunities in Germany to gain a foothold in the film industry.
Sophie Linnenbaum, film director

Which topics are particularly relevant in the German film scene right now? What springs to mind when you hear the words “German film” or “German movie-making”?
I have to admit I’m a bit blinkered due to being involved in it myself, so I might tend to be a bit over-critical of the films that are made in my own country. I see German film as very often being rather introspective and self-centred, offering a restricted view that lacks broader scope. And when I say that, I don’t mean every film should be about war or deadly diseases. Self-reference in particular enables a reasonably secure position in economic terms. And this in turn provides the perfect basis for pushing existing boundaries, in terms of gaining an awareness of the structural inequalities in our industry and seeking to break these down. This then gives rise to the opportunity to address relevant social issues and establish new narrative forms. I welcome all German films that set out with this kind of objective in mind. 



Sophie Linnenbaum, 38, is a German film director, screenwriter, playwright and film producer based in Berlin. Her short films have screened at numerous national and international festivals.