Skip to main content
TFM_German Stories on Screen

Last year, 2019, saw a boom in screen adaptations. From Ferdinand von Schirach’s Der Fall Collini, to Siegfried Lenz’ Deutschstunde, from Judith Kerr’s childrens’ classic Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl to Alfons Zitterbacke, well known in the former GDR: the appetite of film producers for literary material knows no bounds. The crucial factor is a book’s success, as is the case with the Känguru-Chroniken by Marc-Uwe Kling, coming to cinema screens this year. But classics like Narziss und Goldmund by Hermann Hesse or Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz are also of interest to directors. Material from Germany is clearly popular among international producers too – the film rights to Daniel Kehlmann’s Tyll have been secured by Netflix.

‘There are books whose message we can all relate to, biographies of famous or infamous characters, or books with great drama and suspense, which work in every medium,’ says Sibylle Seidel of the Seidel Media Agency. She’s sold the film rights to books by Zeruya Shalev, Daniel Glattauer, Petra Hammesfahr and Pascal Mercier among others. It’s a long road from book to film and good personal networks are essential for successful negotiation, says Sibylle Seidel. For many years now the Frankfurter Buchmesse has been working to support networking between the film and book industries. Since 2006, rights holders have been pitching material they think has potential at ‘Books at Berlinale’, an event held under the aegis of the European Film Market. In 2020 around 170 international texts were submitted; of that number, 12 were presented at Books at Berlinale at the end of February. (See next page).

Attendance at the major international festivals is also part of the networking strategy initiated by Frankfurter Buchmesse: this year, visits to the Cannes International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival are on the programme. The two-day publishers’ tour to the Croisette takes place on the 18th and 19th of May 2020 and is supported by the Federal Foreign Office. The tour gives selected publishers and literary agencies from German-speaking countries the opportunity to make presentations at the film festival. With the networking day A Book is a Film is a Game, the Frankfurter Buchmesse has created another format to bring people from the film and book industries together: around 60 participants will discuss ideas via pitches, case studies, analysing trends and panel discussions. The event will take place at the Fair in 2020. The Frankfurter Buchmesse recognises outstanding screen adaptations with the Frankfurter Buchmesse Film Awards. There are two categories: ‘Best International Literary Adaptation’ and ‘Best International Adaptation for Children and Young Adults’.

Find this article and much more in the current issue of The Frankfurt Magazine.