Christian Petzold (born 14 September 1960) is a German film director.
Born in Hilden and raised in Haan, where he graduated from high school in 1979, Petzold fulfilled his military civil service in a small cinema club of a local YMCA, showing films to troubled adolescents. From 1981 on he lived in Berlin, where he studied theatre and German studies at the Free University of Berlin. From 1988-1994, he studied film at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (dffb) where he studied with mentors who "included filmmakers, media artists, and media theorists Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky, who are both known for their non-narrative films, video work, and film installations in galleries and museums." While at dffb, Petzold appeared in Thomas Arslan's short experimental film 19 Porträts (1990), a 16-millimeter black-and-white film in the tradition of Andy Warhol's Screen Tests.
His first film was Pilotinnen, which he directed for his film school graduation in 1995. In 2005, his film Gespenster was presented at the Berlin International Film Festival, as was his 2007 film Yella. Petzold writes his own scenarios, often collaborating with Harun Farocki. As his former teacher at dffb, Farocki was a major influence on Petzold, who, along with Angela Schanelec and Thomas Arslan, is generally considered to be part of the Berlin School.
While the Berlin School is often associated with a new turn towards realism and political cinema, Petzold's films, while they address issues of work and employment, also deal with conflicts between life and death. In Gespenster the protagonist leads a ghost-like existence. In Yella the protagonist is, possibly, already dead at the beginning of the film. These three films came to be called the "Gespenster Trilogy".
The 2008 film Jerichow was his fourth collaboration with Nina Hoss after Something to Remind Me (German: Toter Mann), Wolfsburg and Yella. The drama concerns a soldier who, having returned from Afghanistan to Prignitz, becomes involved in relationships with married women. The movie was nominated in the main competition at the 65th Venice International Film Festival in 2008. In 2009, Petzold received a 'best director' nomination for the Deutscher Filmpreis award.
Although more famous as a director of film and television, Petzold has also staged Arthur Schnitzler's The Lonely Way (German: Der einsame Weg) at the Deutsches Theater following an invitation by Oliver Reese. The drama, with Nina Hoss as protagonist, premiered on March 14, 2009.
Petzold's film Barbara competed in competition at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival and Petzold won the Silver Bear for Best Director. The film was selected as the German entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist. The film became Petzold's greatest box office success, grossing $4,129,250 worldwide.
- 1996: Max Ophüls assistance award in category feature-length film for Cuba Libre
- 2001: Verband der deutschen Filmkritik award as best acting film for Die innere Sicherheit
- 2001: Deutscher Filmpreis award in category best movie for Die innere Sicherheit
- 2002: Academy of Arts, Berlin, television award for Toter Mann
- 2002: Deutscher Fernsehpreis for Toter Mann
- 2003: Adolf Grimme Award for Toter Mann
- 2003: FIPRESCI award in panorama of Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin for Wolfsburg
- 2005: Adolf Grimme golden award for Wolfsburg
- 2005: Findling Award for Gespenster
- 2006: Verband der deutschen Filmkritik award as best acting film for Gespenster
- 2008: Verband der deutschen Filmkritik award as best acting film for Yella
- 2009: Verband der deutschen Filmkritik award as best acting film for Jerichow
- 2009: Film award of German city Hof (Saale) (Internationale Hofer Filmtage)
- 2012: Silver Bear for Best Director of Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin for Barbara