The stories told by these films are gripping. Stories about former border guards who remember the Iron Curtain era. About young Europeans from Poland, Latvia and Italy who, while in search of happiness, wind up in an emergency shelter in Berlin. About refugees who never lose hope while in their camp. About women fighting for equal opportunities and about children dreaming of the great outdoors during a summer of coronavirus quarantine. The stories are as diverse as the young filmmakers who came up with them – sometimes abstract and allegorical, sometimes quiet and searching, sometimes shrill and tangible - but always touching.

55 concepts, 12 films, 4 awards

How do young people view our united Europe? What do they appreciate and what are they critical of? Which issues are dear to the filmmakers’ hearts? These are the questions asked by the project Europe. Funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Deutsche Filmakademie Produktion, the German body that produces annual awards ceremonies and supports local film makers, launched a short film competition at the end of 2019 for students at German-speaking film schools and for freelancers, to mark Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.

“With this competition, we want to promote debate about Europe and raise awareness of this subject among the European public,” says Claudia Loewe, producer und head of Deutschen Filmakademie Produktion GmbH in Berlin. “The medium of film is particularly well suited for this because it’s so intense and diverse and because it moves many people.” 55 concepts from eleven universities and four independent filmmakers were submitted. From these, the eminent jury of the German Film Academy selected twelve. They were filmed in autumn 2020. Yesterday evening the jury announced the winners:

Screenshots from the winning films: “Handbook for a Privileged European Woman” (top left), “Mother of Freedom” (top right), “Götterdämmerung” (“Twilight of the Gods”) (bottom left) and audience winner “Der Grenzer” (“The Border Guard”) (bottom right) © Europe in Film

Twilight of the Gods

The award went to the film GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (Twilight of the Gods) about a burial at sea onboard a yacht in the Mediterranean. The audience is confronted with an image that is “terrifyingly convincing,” the jury said. “Europe is on a collision path with its own values, the luxury of some is sinking with the despair of others. The Mediterranean, which we consider the cradle of our civilisation ... has become the mass grave of our ethical and moral values. ”

Handbook for a Privileged European Woman

The jurors were also won over by Alma Buddecke's story about everyday life as a woman in Europe. According to the jury, the short film “HANDBOOK FOR A PRIVILEGED EUROPEAN WOMAN” makes use of all cinematic means, including animatio, commercial breaks and dialogues “with almost tarantinoesque sarcasm”. “Yet the short film does not fail to enlighten: Because even in a 'privileged' Europe, a bull ride can still be a breakneck rodeo.”

Mother of Freedom

The third award goes to the haunting documentary film about a Greek refugee camp: MOTHER OF FREEDOM. The film follows two individuals who are fighting against the scandalous conditions in the camp with both tremendous energy and empathy. “It is impossible to evade the urgency of the moment in time documented here,” the jury writes. “Can we really afford to leave people, whose experiences, imagination and bravery would enrich our societies so much, stranded in refugee camps?”

The audience award went to DER GRENZER (The Border Guard).

“It was very exciting for us to see that many concepts revolve around three issues,” Loewe says. Firstly, borders in Europe. How much do we take a Europe without borders for granted and where are borders at risk of reappearing? Secondly, reflecting on the subject of “Fortress Europe”. Many of the filmmakers have critically examined how privileged people in Europe are. What does this mean, how should we deal with this, and to what extent does this blind us to inequality and exclusion in Europe itself? Thirdly, European feminism. Does it exist at all and what exactly is meant by it? At the end of the day, women’s situations vary greatly from country to country in Europe.

“All of the films are characterised by a pro-European attitude,” explains Moana Doll, one of project coordinators at the Deutsche Filmakademie. “The filmmakers are evidently united by the feeling that it’s a privilege to be European. And yet at the same time, they take a remarkably critical look at Europe. I think this is about the belief that we need precisely this critical view of our united Europe if we want to preserve its achievements.”

Each award is endowed with 3,000 euros.

The films in the competition can be seen on

You can find more information on the cultural programme of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union here, or in the following film.

The cultural programme of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union