Awards & Winners

Helma Sanders-Brahms

Date of Birth 20-November-1940
Place of Birth Emden
(Germany, Lower Saxony)
Nationality Germany
Also know as Helma Sanders, Helma Sanders
Profession Film Director, Screenwriter, Film Producer, Actor, Voice Actor, Film Editor, Television Director, Television Producer
'Helma Sanders-Brahms was borned in 1940 in the German town of Emden. In the article "Helma Sanders-Brahms: An Introduction" by Steven Taubneck Sanders-Brams is quoted speaking about her childhood and how she came to be a filmmaker: “The first time I saw a film I knew it was my thing. I had a lonely childhood. When I was ten years old my parents sent me on Sundays to matinees. There were often fairy-tale films showing. There was one I particularly liked and afterwards I went to the cashier and said: ‘I want my money back for the other films since they were so bad.’ I thought: ‘I don’t want so bad films to be made.’" Steven Taubneck cites this statement from Sanders-Brahms as significative for her later career as a director because it shows her desire to create “better movies”, her refusal to accept the conventions of the culture industry and, since the fim she saw was Cocteaus Beauty and the Beast her future tendency of relying upon fantasy and imagination. Later she came to studying literature something that could be said to be reflected in some of her movies. According to Taubneck perhaps most noticeable in her film Germany, Pale Mother which starts with a quote from a Brecht-poem. Later she began working as a television announcer but started making movies after training under Pier Paolo Pasolini and Sergio Corbucci. After this she made her first film, a documentary called Angelica Urban, Salesgirl, Engaged to be Married which she funded herself. The reason she funded the film herself was that the television company that initially expressed interest in the project wanted to make changes in the film. When the film was completed she tried to sell it to another television company. They wanted her to shorten the film something she refused to do. Instead she sent it to the 1970 Oberhausen Film Festival where it won two prices. This ment she could make more films for different television companies but as Thomas Elsaesser notes in New German Cinema – A History most of the movies she made after this was financed by her own company. She however continued to make movies for televisison. Helma Sanders-Brahms career developed further with the 1976 release of the film Shirin’s Wedding. The film was made for television and follows a young Turkish woman in her search for the man she was betrothed to as a child, Mahmud. Mahmud works as a guest worker in Germany. The film follows her journey through Germany and her subsequent downfall that ends in prostitution. Helma Sanders-Brahms was awarded with the golden cup for her film Heinrich. This prize is the top Federal film prize and Sanders-Brahms was the first woman ever to be awarded it. This however did not happen without controversy. The film was criticized for being an adaption from a literary source. According to Elsaesser she was “singled out as the main offender in the general uproar about the Gremienfilm and the abuse of literary adaptions.” The most famous film of Sanders-Brahms is probably Germany, Pale Mother. The film is described by Julia Knight as “autobiographical and, using the conventions of art-house realism, explores her parents experience during the nazi era, the second world war and the immediate post-war period.” The film follows the marriage of Lene and Hans, whom are Sanders-Brahms parents, and Sanders-Bramhs herself, in the film called Anna. They meet during the nazi era and quickly get married only to have Hans shipped of to the front. During a visit home Lene becomes pregnant with Anna. After she is born an air strike destroy the house they live in and Anna and Lene is left to wander the countryside. Knight describes this as “rather then depicting the physical problems this creates, the film concentrates on the emotional effect it has on Lene. Although she has lost almost everything she owns and has nowhere to live, she experiences a sense of liberation”. The destruction of the home, and the absence of Hans is portrayed as something good. The bond that forms between Lene and Anna excludes Hans who is increasingly frustrated by this. One time he returns home on leave wanting to make love to Lene. Anna however begins to scream and Lene focuses all of her attention upon her instead. In another example Hans wants to make love to Lene so bad he rips her blouse to shreds. This only antagonizes Lene and when she tries to resist him he strikes her, accusing her of having another man. When the war is over Hans becomes a tyrant hardened by war and the feeling of exclusion. Knight writes: “Sanders-Brahms explores the effect war has on Hans rather then what he does or the role he plays as a soldier. Thomas Elsaesser tries to summaries the film by describing it as trying to answer the question posed by Alexander Kluge: “what had to come under scrutiny was how the Nazi regime was able to keep the German family idyll intact right next to the concentration camp”.

Awards by Helma Sanders-Brahms

Check all the awards nominated and won by Helma Sanders-Brahms.


Sutherland Trophy
Honored for : The Heiress


German Film Award for Best Script
Honored for : Heinrich

Nominations 1977 »

Award Nominated Nominated Work
German Film Award for Best Script Heinrich