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German filmmaker gets news of Oscar nom at Sundance

Published January 26, 2012 5:31 pm

Rejected by Sundance, Zähle's short film about a couple out to adopt an Indian child gets the nod.
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Park City • Max Zähle's 24-minute film "Raju" didn't make the cut among this year's short films selected for competition by the Sundance Film Festival, but it proved good enough for an Oscar Nomination for Best Live Action Short Film.

The 34-year-old German director, whose previous work includes a slate of short comedies, received the news Jan. 25 in Park City, where he and his girlfriend were attending the same festival that rejected his film.

"It's funny, but that's how film works," said Zähle, sitting for an interview inside the festival's Filmmaker Lodge on Main Street. "Both of us were speechless."

Zähle's Oscar nomination is also proof, of sorts, that lightning strikes twice. Last year's Sundance Film Festival also saw an Oscar nod for short film go to a young director, Luke Matheny. Similar to Zähle, Matheny's film, "God of Love," was snubbed by Sundance but went on to earn the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.

Shot entirely in Kolkata, India, Zähle's short film follows the travails and ethical dilemma a German couple face when the husband discovers that the 4-year-old Indian orphan boy they planned to adopt had been abducted from his parents. Zähle said two of Germany's biggest film stars, Wotan Wilke Mörhring (who plays the husband) and Julia Richter (as the wife), volunteered their talents after reading his script.

"I've always been interested in films about family bonds and human needs," Zähle said. "It doesn't matter if it's comedy or not. If it's about the depth of human needs, anyone can understand the story."

Shot in a documentary style with almost entirely handheld cameras, "Raju" will screen Saturday in Park City for free, with Zähle present to answer questions afterward. Heand his girlfriend are attending Sundance through the Angelus Student Film Festival, sponsor of Saturday's screening and a festival through which Zähle won 2011's Excellence in Filmmaking Award after Matheny film won the same award in 2010.

Zähle said he fielded more than 25 interviews from the German press the day his nomination was announced. He's got plans under way to start his first full-length feature film, about northern Germany's clannish sect of scrap-metal gatherers in the city of Celle in Lower Saxony. And that's left him little time to figure out what he'll wear for the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, Feb. 26 in Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.

"I do own one suit, but it's my dad's from the 1970s," Zähle said. "I'm not a suit guy. I think I'll rent a tuxedo."


Screening of Max Zähle's "Raju"

The student filmmaker's short film was nominated for an 2012 Oscar for Best Live Action Short.

When • Saturday, Jan. 28, 5: 30 p.m.

Where • Mountain Vineyard, 1401 Kearns Blvd., Park City

Info • Free, with Q&A with director Zähle to follow. Visit http://www.raju-film.com for more information.