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Austria’s Counterfeiters wins Oscar and calls for a boost in Austrian film industry

February 29, 2008

Oscar for Austria

Austria celebrated its first Oscar win Monday, with top politicians congratulating director Stefan Ruzowitzky and industry professionals calling for more funding for homegrown films.

Ruzowitzky's "Die Faelscher" ("The Counterfeiters"), which tells the true story of a group of Jewish prisoners recruited by the Nazis to mount one of the largest counterfeiting operations in history, won best foreign film at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

"It's the first time that an Austrian film has won the world's most important film prize in this category," said President Heinz Fischer. "And it is not only an accolade for Stefan Ruzowitzky and his team, but also for the new Austrian film, which has developed very positively in the past few years."

Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer also added that this award was a call on politicians to "support European filmmaking much more than we have until now, through improved national and European funding. European cinema should once again gain the international significance that corresponds to its creative potential."

Ruzowitzky, who recently called for higher endownments for filmmakers from the Austrian Film Institute and Viennese Film Fund, said Monday that he hoped his success would pressure the culture and finance ministries to better support and fund homegrown talent.

"Stefan, we hope you'll continue to work in Austria... the ball is now in the politicians' court," the Austrian Filmmakers' Association said.

Austrian Chamber of Commerce president Christoph Leitl meanwhile noted that the Oscar was "no laurel leaf on which we should rest... but a duty to promote Austria as a filmmaking country."

"The Counterfeiters," the first Austrian film to win a major Oscar, has been greeted with enthusiasm in Britain and the United States, where it had the second-biggest opening for a German-language film, according to Ruzowitzky.

Austria has contributed several well-known figures to the film industry, but such legendary directors as Otto Preminger and Billy Wilder only became famous after they left Austria for Hollywood, Ruzowitzky noted in his acceptance speech Sunday night.