On 24 September 2018, the 19th First Steps Awards ceremony took place on Berlin's Stage Theater des Westens. Endowed with a total of 115,000 euros, the German Film Academy honored outstanding final projects by students graduating from film schools in German-speaking countries. "The aim is to honor filmmakers of a whole new generation," emphasized Iris Berben, President of the German Film Academy, in her opening speech. "And this generation makes films that are uncompromising. In their attitude, their design, their dramaturgy, their characters. It's impressive how good these films are."
The First Steps Awards were presented in a total of ten categories. Lukas Feigelfeld ("Hagazussa") was honored for the best feature-length film. The award for the best medium-length feature film went to Magdalena Chmielewska ("Am Himmel"), for the best short and animated film to Mate Ugrin ("In der Zwischenzeit/Meanwhile"), for the best documentary to Johannes List ("Tackling Life"), and for the best commercial to Michael Kranz ("myBorder´s joyFence").
For the first time, three camera women were nominated for the Michael Ballhaus Prize in the Camera category: Lilian Nix ("Kindsein – Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst"), Aleksandra Medianikova ("Rå") and Mariel Baqueiro ("Hagazussa"). The latter won the race and with good reason, as the jury found: "'Hagazussa' is visually certainly the most mature film of this vintage—a force." The award was presented by Sherry Hormann, director and wife of Michael Ballhaus, and Josef Reidinger, Managing Director of ARRI Media. On stage, he remembered the first time he saw a film by the famous cameraman: "’The Color Of Money'—that was sensational for me. I was totally blown away. That's when Michael Ballhaus really hit me."
Marius Ehlayil ("frueher oder spaeter") accepted the No Fear Award, Janett Lederer ("Der Storch ist tot") won the script prize, and Zejhun Demirov ("Oray") went home with the Goetz George Young Talent Prize.
Finally, the First Steps Honorary Award was presented to a personality who has rendered outstanding services to young talent, the acting director of the Berlinale, Dieter Kosslick: "for the open-mindedness and decisiveness with which he has welcomed young filmmakers to the most important German film festival since 2002."
The First Steps Awards were created by the producers Bernd Eichinger and Nico Hofmann. They are organized by the German Film Academy in partnership with ARRI, Mercedes-Benz, ProSiebenSat.1 TV Deutschland, UFA, and Warner Bros. These partners are unified by a common desire: to promote young filmmakers in a meaningful and effective way and to facilitate their "first steps" into professional life.
Josef Reidinger of ARRI Media and Ute Boehringer-Mai, Head of Corporate Marketing & Communications of the ARRI Group, among others, were present at the awards ceremony to congratulate the nominees and winners on their outstanding achievements personally.
An overview of all jury statements can be found at First Steps.