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On the occasion of the festival’s opening gala on June 8, the Diagonale’21 will award the Great Diagonale Acting Award for contributions to Austrian film culture for the fourteenth time. The Diagonale is pleased to announce that this year’s award goes to Christine Ostermayer. The stage, film and television actress will receive the award – an artwork by Verena Dengler – in Graz personally.

A versatile talent

“Small, subtle gestures, performed with noble grace: no matter where and in which significant role actress Christine Ostermayer appeared on stage – she always won over her audience.” With this observation, the Süddeutsche Zeitung began an article in 2016 on the occasion of Ostermayer’s 80th birthday. That the actress, born in Vienna in 1936, is exactly the ‘energetic diva’ described in the same, was also confirmed when it became known that she would receive the Great Diagonale Acting Award: “You make a fool of yourself if you award me!” A rough voice, accompanied by incomparable charm – Christine Ostermayer is an engaging and passionate person. It is an immense pleasure for the jury of the Great Diagonale Acting Award (Ute Baumhackl, Christian Konrad, Julia Franz Richter, Julia Stemberger and Hüseyin Tabak) to award her: ‘In many different roles Christine Ostermayer shows how empathic, simple and genuine she is in her work. Most recently in the role of a fragile, intelligent and warm-hearted grandmother in Oskar & Lilli (directed by Arash T. Riahi, AT 2020), in recent years as a lover in Coming of Age (directed by Sabine Hiebler, Gerhard Ertl, AT 2011) or as a woman with dementia in Nebenwege (directed by Michael Ammann, DE 2014). Her career spans an entire era and a wide range of stage, television, film and radio roles, in which – both as a protagonist and in supporting roles – she gives her characters an intimate depth. Christine Ostermayer is an actress with humour, wit and sensitivity. A human actress who shines without having to show off all the time. Thus, this award honours a long, lively and impressive life of an actress who has enriched the world of Austrian film and theatre for decades’.

After the Best Acting Award for her successful performance in Coming of Age at the Diagonale’12, this is Christine Ostermayer’s second award at the Festival of Austrian Film.

The Great Diagonale Acting Award 2021 will be given to Christine Ostermayer during the Diagonale’s opening gala on June 8 at the Helmut List Halle in Graz. Due to the legal curfew and distance regulations, the Festival of Austrian Film will open with two consecutive screenings of Fox in a Hole (AT 2020) by Arman T. Riahi. Following the cancellation of the Diagonale’20, last year’s winner Ursula Strauss will also receive the Great Diagonale Acting Award personally on June 8. The award ceremony will take place during the opening show in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the opening party has to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

Burning, shining, warming: the acting sunshine

A highlight of Ostermayer’s career was the award-winning feature film Coming of Age by Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl (AT 2011), which, on the wave of the age debate recently triggered by Mavie Hörbiger, is also a model for Austrian cinema in terms of casting policy. Christine Ostermayer’s courageous performance as the newcomer earned her her first award at the Diagonale in 2012: for her interpretation of Rosa, a cancer patient, she received the acting award for a remarkable performance in a competing film. On this occasion, the actress showed what it means for an actor to ‘shine’. The jury was delighted: “And you, dear Christine Ostermayer, have won us over with your outstanding, sensitive, sincere performance that shows us the ruthless and courageous life. When your Rosa falls in love with Bruno, you evoke spring in our hearts and we fall in love too. With you!” After appearances in Catalina Molina’s thriller Drachenjungfrau (AT 2015) at the Diagonale’16 and Marie Kreutzer’s comedy Die Notlüge (AT 2017) at the Diagonale’17, Christine Ostermayer was due to appear again in a central role on Graz’s film screens last year: in Arash T. Riahi’s poetic Oskar & Lilli she plays a grandmother suffering from Parkinson’s disease who befriends one of two children who have fled Chechnya and are entrusted to two different families. It is the last film role of an impressive career to date, in which the now 84-year-old has also taken part in the television adaptation of classic works such as Der Talisman (AT 1976), Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung (BRD 1971) and Was ihr wollt (BRD 1973) by director Otto Schenk, as well as series such as Fast Forward, The Winemaker King and several episodes of Tatort and Derrick.

From Kindertheater to expressive dance to early and late beginnings

Christine Ostermayer’s acting career began at a young age. Her paediatrician’s recommendation to do gymnastics turned into studying dance with Willy Fränzl. She soon started acting at Hanna Berger’s newly founded Kindertheater in Vienna, where she gained her first stage experience at the age of seven. The experience at the Kindertheater was soon followed by the study of dance at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts. Her greatest passion was expressive dance, said Ostermayer, who finally arrived to Max-Reinhardt-Seminar in 1954 to train as an actress. After her debut at the Städtische Bühnen in Essen, Christine Ostermayer acted for four years at the Wuppertal Bühnen. From 1963 to 1984, she was part of the ensemble of the Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel (Munich Residenztheater). This was followed by engagements in Düsseldorf, Berlin, Zurich, at the Burgtheater in Vienna, at the Theater in der Josefstadt and at the Salzburg Festival. Since 1994, Christine Ostermayer has also worked at the Volkstheater in Munich. Parallel to her theatrical career, she has worked for film and television and taken part in numerous radio plays.

In 1968, Ostermayer received the Förderpreis of the City of Munich, in 1975 the Kainz medal, in 1999 the Nestroy Ring and in 2010 the Piscator Jubiläumspreis. In 2017, the Munich-based actress was awarded the ‘München leuchtet’ medal for outstanding contributions to theatre. For her role in Oskar & Lilli by Arash T. Riahi, she is currently nominated for the Österreichischer Filmpreis 2021 as Best Actress in a Leading Role.

An artwork for Christine Ostermayer, created by Verena Dengler

The winner of the Great Diagonale Acting Award 2021 will receive an artwork, designed and donated by Verena Dengler thanks to legero united – the shoemakers | Initiator of

With her allusive, topical and sometimes provocative works – last presented to the audience in a personal exhibition at the Vienna Secession – Verena Dengler has made an international name for herself. For this year’s Great Diagonale Acting Award, Dengler designed a selfie stick in gilded bronze.

“Not only after the pandemic has traditional cinema been confronted with alternatives and changes: films shrink to the size of mobile phone screens – and this in turn leads to isolation instead of collective experience. The golden stick of the selfie, however, represents a positive aspect: through the democratisation of the film medium, anyone can now create a platform for themselves. At the same time, the suction cups of these widespread selfie sticks can also be compared to those of an octopus – a metaphor for the rampant anti-Semitic and conspiratorial content that can be circulated by all those who create the most poignant images’.

— Verena Dengler about the prize she sponsored

Interim Jury 2021

Ute Baumhackl (Head of Culture and Media Department, Kleine Zeitung)

Christian Konrad (Head of Film Department, ORF)

Julia Franz Richter (Actress)

Julia Stemberger (Actress, VdFS representative)

Hüseyin Tabak (Director, Producer, Screenwriter)

Previous winners of the Great Diagonale Acting Award:

Ursula Strauss (2020), 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