How a German war film disarmed Oscar voters despite woes at home

When “All Quiet on the Western Front” first premiered back in September, there was little to suggest it was about to wage an all-out campaign for Oscar votes.

The German-language World War I film comes from Netflix, which had a roster of far more expensive “prestige” movies primed for Academy Award pushes, from Oscar-winning director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Bardo” to the star-studded “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

But while those have largely fallen by the wayside, with one nomination each, “All Quiet” has emerged from the crowded trenches of awards season hopefuls as an Oscars frontrunner, with nine nods, including for much-coveted best picture honors.

“It really feels like a wave of joy and luck that has come over us,” director Edward Berger told AFP, days before his film won seven prizes at Britain’s BAFTAs, including best film.

“We’re very grateful for that… it’s a German war movie!”

Indeed, Berger’s film is the third screen adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s seminal novel about naive young German soldiers confronted with the horrors of war — but the first shot in the author’s native language.

Had he been asked, the director “would have immediately said no” to making another English-language version.

Luckily, the decision to flip the script was helped by Netflix’s wildly successful expansion into new global markets with recent subtitled hits such as South Korean series “Squid Game” and Oscar-winning film “Roma.”

The movie’s eventual $20 million price tag was comparatively small change for the streaming giant, but a huge sum in the German film industry.

“We wouldn’t have gotten the type of budget that you need to make this film five years ago,” said Berger.

The film’s best picture Oscar nomination is the first for any German-language movie.

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