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A film by Christian Petzold


East Germany, 1980. Barbara Wolff is a talented young doctor who has applied for an exit visa from the GDR and, as punishment, has been transferred from her prestigious post in Berlin to a small pediatric hospital in the country. Even though she is constantly aware of the very real shadowy presence of, and overwhelming numbers of Stasi officers chronicling her every move, every waking hour, she arrives at her new post having already planned a series of dangerous assignations with her lover, with whom she plans to escape to the West, to Poland.

To Barbara, everyone is suspect as a potential betrayer at her new hospital, everyone except the patients, who receive every ounce of her compassion and loyalty, without hesitation. One such potential enemy is a young doctor named Andre. Initially rejecting his overtures of friendship, she is perplexed by his talent, his determination, and his sincerity. It doesn’t jive with the enemies she sees, and those she doesn’t see, all around her. His side interests in art and music, which mirror her own, cause her to let down her guard a bit, and an attraction grows, an attraction she knows she can’t afford to nurture.

In a rare moment of dual repose Andre confides to Barbara that he wound up at this particular post, in self-exile, after an intern whose work he was overseeing made a tragic, unintentional mistake that caused the blindness of two young children. As poignant as the story is Barbara can’t help herself from asking, “Is the story true?”

A young female patient, Stella, arrives at the hospital suffering from meningitis. She immediately latches onto Barbara as the only doctor from whom she will allow treatment and visitation. Barbara takes on a maternal role in addition to her role as a healer as soon as she learns Stella is pregnant.

Life-turning decisions must be made: Will she permit Stella to be returned to a work camp once the meningitis is treated, a fate that will almost certainly imperil the life of Stella’s unborn child; will she continue to fall in love with a doctor in whom she sees a kindred spirit, a relationship, should it flourish, that might doom her to remain in the East; will an escape plan hatched by her lover be carried out or thwarted when her prodigious medical skills are suddenly required to possibly save the life of a new patient?

BARBARA is a story of self-sacrifice and freedom and quiet heroism at a time and place when such values are at a premium. It is also about a healer whose morality and set of personal ethics are being called into questions by circumstances specific to that same time and place in history.


Barbara News

Germany's Oscar entry is Christian Petzold's Barbara

Barbara Oscar pickChristian Petzold’s Barbara has been chosen as the official German entry to be considered for nomination in the Academy Awards’ best foreign language film category.

A nine-person independent jury under the chairmanship of Hamburg-based producer Stefan Schubert substantiated its choice of Barbara, declaring that the film is “convincing in its great formal clarity and strong female figure, who, torn between the contradiction of individual freedom and social responsibility, has to make a personal decision.”

Barbara received its world premiere at this year’s Berlinale where director Petzold was awarded the Silver Bear for best direction. The film also earned its producer Schramm Film Koerner & Weber a Silver Lola at the German Film Awards in April in the best film category.


The German theatrical release by Piffl Medien attracted over 350,000 admissions since Mar 8, and Barbara’s sales agent The Match Factory sold the film to over 40 territories, including France where it has been particularly successful with some 300,000 tickets sold. Releases are being lined up in the UK, Spain, Italy as well as the Netherlands, Brazil and Russia. Adopt Films will release the film on Dec 21 in US cinemas.

Barbara has been presented at numerous international festivals since its Berlinale world premiere and has now been programmed by Toronto and Telluride as well as the 50th New York Film Festival in coming weeks.

Barbara beat off competition from eight other films submitted by their producers for consideration to become Germany’s official entry for the 85th Academy Awards, ranging from Toke Constantin Hebbeln’s Shores Of Hope, which will have its international premiere in Toronto on Sept 8, through Til Schweiger’s action thrillerGuardians, which opens in German cinemas through Warner Bros on Sept 27, to Marten Persiel’s skateboarding documentary This Ain’t California.

The film’s lead actress Nina Hoss and producer Florian Koerner von Gustorf are currently on the other side of the globe working on a new Schramm Film project, Thomas Arslan’s drama Gold, set during the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century, shooting at historical sites throughout British Columbia. As withBarbara, this €2.2m production is also being handled internationally by The Match Factory.

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Schweiger, Petzold and Von Trotta on German Oscar Short List

Action film "Guardian Angels," Berlinale winner "Barbara" and biopic "Hannah Arendt" among Best Foreign Film contenders.

COLOGNE, Germany - New films from Til Schweiger, Margarette von Trotta, Christian Petzold and Leander Haussmann are among the short list candidates for Germany's entry for the 2013 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Schweiger's action thriller Guardian Angels, von Trotta's biopic Hannah Arendt and Petzold's East German period drama Barbara are arguably the front runners in the short-list, which also includes Haussmann's tragicomedy Hotel Lux and the neo-Nazi drama Kriegerin from first-time director David Wnendt. Other German Oscar contenders are Ulrike Schamoni's Abscheid von den Froschen and Die Verlorene Zeit from director Anne Justice.

Perhaps the most unusual title on the shortlist is the docu-drama This Ain't California from director Marten Persiel, which combines found footage with recreated scenes from the underground skateboarding scene in communist East Germany.

An independent jury will meet on August 29 and 30 to pick the official Oscar nominee, which will be announced August 30. The winner will be Germany's official candidate for Best Foreign Language Film for the 85th Oscars.

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