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At the opening of the festival on March 24, the Diagonale’20 will award the Great Diagonale Acting Award for contributions to Austrian film culture for the thirteenth consecutive year. The Diagonale is happy to announce that this year the prize will be awarded to Ursula Strauss. The theatre, film and television actress will personally receive the award – a piece of art by Daniel Spoerri – in Graz.

One woman, a thousand faces

“I acted wherever there was an opportunity to act. I was always at the forefront in scouts, youth groups and carnivals. […] I knew I had found what I wanted to do. It was crazy. Overwhelming.” With these words, Ursula Strauss spoke about her profession in 2019, in an interview with Falter.

With the Great Diagonale Acting Award for contributions to Austrian film culture, the Diagonale honours Ursula Strauss for her extremely cohesive and diversified work. “With her discreet presence, Ursula Strauss creates emotional, authentic and entertaining figures made of flesh and blood that touch, excite and leave traces. For almost twenty years, she has been an indispensable constant in Austrian cinema. Seemingly effortlessly, she creates people with whom the audience can identify. It is a great pleasure for us to honour her with this wonderful award,’ said the jury in an initial statement on the Great Diagonale Acting Award 2020.

From theatre to television. From the big screen to the hearts of Austrians

The Great Diagonale Acting Award is Ursula Strauss’s third award at the Diagonale. In 2008, she received the Diagonale Acting Award for the first time for her performance in the Oscar-nominated drama Revanche (D: Götz Spielman, AT 2008), in which she excelled alongside Johannes Krisch, Andreas Lust and Hanno Pöschl. “We could not fail to notice this extraordinary performer. She is in three films [Half a Life (D: Nikolaus Leytner, AT / DE 2008), Illness of Youth (D: Andrina Mracnikar, Peter Brunner, Karl Bretschneider, Henning Backhaus, Stefan Brunner, AT 2007) and also Revanche, where she offers very different aspects. With just a few gestures, a few sentences or a movement of the head, she manages to impressively portray each young woman. […] In particular, one of the moments in this film was especially significant for us members of the jury: when she seems to give the story a new direction with a short sentence – forcing a surprising twist – suddenly transforming her character into an actively acting woman,” said the 2008 jury in connection with the Austrian actress’s award in a film competing at the Diagonale.

For her role in Mirjam Unger’s film Fly away home (AT 2016), based on the novel of the same name by Christine Nöstlinger and which opened the Diagonale’16, Ursula Strauss was once again awarded the Diagonale Acting Award. “Ursula Strauss plays the resolute mother so natural that you do not even perceive the fact that she is acting. She merges into this role in such a way that we forget everything else. Her body and language become part of us. The meticulous preparation for this role can be underestimated. It is high acting with enormous lightness and precision,’ said the jury in 2016.

Ursula Strauss was born in Melk, Lower Austria in 1974. After graduating, she moved to Vienna and attended drama school at the Volkstheater. This was followed by theatre engagements on famous stages such as the Theater in der Josefstadt, the Ensemble Theatre and the Volkstheater in Vienna. Ursula Strauss played her first leading roles in Barbara Albert’s Free Radicals (AT 2003) and two years later in Jörg Kalts’ Crash Test Dummies (AT 2005). The film’s screenplay was awarded the Thomas Pluch Screenplay Award in 2005 during the Diagonale. Other award-winning productions in which Strauss has been involved are the drama Fallen, starring five women (D: Barbara Albert, AT 2006), which was presented in Venice in 2006 and the noir Revanche (D: Götz Spielman, AT 2008). The latter was presented at the Berlinale in 2008 and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009. Both works were screened at the Diagonale, as was In another Lifetime (directed by Elisabeth Scharang, AT / HU / DE 2010), also starring Ursula Strauss, in 2011.

The film Michael (D: Markus Schleinzer, AT 2011) recounts the fulfilment and failure of an adult’s submission play on a child, in which Ursula Strauss played a secondary role. Schleinzer’s film competed at the Cannes Film Festival 2011 and got five awards at the Diagonale 2012. In the family drama October/November (D: Götz Spielmann, AT 2013), Strauss played the role of one of two sisters who must come to terms with the imminent death of their father. The film was screened at the Diagonale 2014. Another family drama starred Ursula Strauss in 2015: Place of Shelter (AT 2016) by Michael Ramsauer. This was followed by the opening film of the Diagonale’16, Fly away home.

The big breakthrough in television came for Ursula Strauss with the role of Commissar Angelika Schnell in Schnell Ermittelt. The series quickly became one of ORF’s most successful series and Ursula Strauss became one of the audience’s favourite actresses. In 2016, she played the character of Anna Sacher in the two-part TV series Das Sacher, directed by Robert Dornhelm. Strauss took part in the seventh season in 2019 of Lisa Bierwirth’s German TV series Le Prince. During her TV career, Ursula Strauss has worked with directors such as Wolfgang Murnberger, Andreas Prochaska, Nikolaus Leytner, Martin Weinhart, Lars Becker and Stefan Krohmer, also taking part in the two ORF mini-series Aufschneider and Altes Geld together with David Schalko. In the new ORF entertainment series Wischen ist Macht, the much-loved Strauss and his cleaning company cause absolute chaos. The first airing took place in January 2020.

Ursula Strauss, who grew up in Lower Austria, is a four-time Romy Award winner. In 2012, she received the Österreichischen Filmpreis. At the Biarritz Film Festival, she was awarded the Golden FIPA as Best Actress in 2018. In summer 2018, Strauss played Brunhild in the premiere of Siegfrieds Erben at the Worms Festival and was awarded the Mario Adorf Prize.

President, Ambassador, Honorary Citizen

Together with Stefan Ruzowitzky, Ursula Strauss has been president of the Austrian Film Academy since 2013. The academy, founded in 2009, has set itself the task of promoting and honouring the achievements of the national film industry and contributing to its future projects. But it is not only this role that Ursula Strauss fulfils with honourable commitment. It is not unusual for her to use the limelight to draw the attention of a wide audience to issues concerning cultural and social policy. Her fight to bring art and culture to the regional areas is a symbol of her great respect for society. Since 2012, Ursula Strauss has organised the Wachau in Echtzeit festival in her home town Melk.

An award for Ursula Strauss, designed by Daniel Spoerri

The winner of the Great Diagonale Acting Award 2020 will receive an art object, designed and donated by Daniel Spoerri. In This Movie is a Gift (AT 2019), the portrait of Daniel Spoerri by Anja Salomonowitz can also be watched as part of the Diagonale’20 programme.

Daniel Spoerri has achieved worldwide fame with his paintings created from everyday objects. By assembling dining scenes or other everyday situations found on tabletops, he links up with the tradition of Duchamp and his Objets trouvés and transforms found objects into art objects. Spoerri galvanised a children’s shoe for this year’s Great Diagonale Acting Award.

“This was the first shoe that was symbolically given to a child at the beginning of its life. At the turn of the century it was fashionable to galvanise this child’s shoe. As the saying goes: fall seven times, rise eight times. ” — Daniel Spoerri, on the artwork he donated

Jury for the Great Diagonale Acting Award 2020

Ute Baumhackl (Head of Culture and Media Department, Kleine Zeitung)
Gerti Drassl (actress, VdFS representative)
Christian Konrad (Editor-in-Chief, ORF)
Gregor Schmidinger (director)
Eva Spreitzhofer (director, screenwriter and actress)

The Great Diagonale Acting Award 2020 will be awarded to Ursula Strauss during the opening of the Diagonale on March 24 at 7.30 p.m. in the Helmut List Halle in Graz.

Previous winners of the Great Diagonale Acting Award

Birgit Minichmayr (2019), Ingrid Burkhard (2018), Johannes Krisch (2017), Erni Mangold (2016), Tobias Moretti (2015), Georg Friedrich (2014), Maria Hofstätter (2013), Johannes Silberschneider (2012), Senta Berger (2011), Klaus Maria Brandauer (2010), Josef Hader (2009), Karl Markovics (2008)

Info: the website of the Diagonale