Toni Erdmann, comedy about a prickly executive and her practical joker father, sweeps European Film Awards

Film directed by Maren Ade that was the toast of Cannes film festival, even though it didn’t win there, sweeps top prizes at festival in Poland, winning best film, director, screenwriter, actor and actress

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 December, 2016, 9:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 December, 2016, 11:51am

The German-Austrian drama Toni Erdmann, written and directed by Maren Ade, swept this year’s European Film Awards, winning five awards, including for best film, director and screenwriter.

Toni Erdmann also won best actress for Sandra Hueller and best actor for Peter Simonischek.

The film became the toast of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, though the top prize went instead to a warm, human, “relatable” Ken Loach drama, I, Daniel Blake.

Ade’s female protagonist is a tightly wound business consultant working with an oil company in Romania. Her minimal relationship with her recently retired father is about to enter a new chapter. He’s an unrelenting practical joker, doing what he can (in hilariously awkward ways) to reach out; she’s fed up with the ingrained, patronising sexism of her male colleagues, yet lacks the self-awareness to question what she’s doing (an affair with a married colleague, for starters), or why.

Best of Cannes 2016: Almodóvar, Jarmusch, Toni Erdmann, and Loach’s heartbreaker

Deliberately, the daughter in Toni Erdmann is not easy screen company. She’s uncomfortable in nearly every aspect of her life. “This is a very interesting question, the question of how likeable characters must be,” writer-director Ade said in an interview before Saturday’s festival victory. “When you make films in Germany it’s always with public money, and the question you hear again and again in meetings is: ‘Yes, but do we LIKE the characters?’ It’s such a boring question!’”

To Ade, the challenge is to “follow people who make mistakes, who may, in fact, be mean. It can be exciting to, I don’t know … to suffer along with the character, even in a comedy. With Toni Erdmann I wanted to do something where the ‘bad cop’ is the woman.”

It’s much more interesting if your characters have a dark side
Maren Ade

She added: “It’s much more interesting if your characters have a dark side. Or a dark side and a light side. Both sides, struggling. Whatever the struggle.”

The 29th European Film Awards took place in the Polish city of Wroclaw. The awards show was peppered with political commentary by presenters, with a focus on the plight of refugees and Russia. Maria Alyokhina from the punk rock group Pussy Riot, whose members have been imprisoned for criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, appealed for the release of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian director carrying out a 20-year prison term in Russia on terrorism charges seen as politically motivated.

Associated Press, Tribune News Service