Due to its focus exclusively on the work of new talents from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg, it is considered the most important newcomer film festival in the German-speaking world.
The cinema film as an audiovisual artistic narrative form is the focus of the festival. Due to its name, the film festival traditionally feels obliged not only to tie in with domestic film history, but especially to deal with politically and socially relevant topics. The eponym and Saarbrücken-born Max Ophüls (1902-1957) is considered one of the great European film directors of the 20th century. Born into a Jewish family, Max Oppenheimer had to flee from the National Socialists in 1933 and found refuge first in France and later in the USA. In the 1950s Max Ophüls returned to Europe.
On the initiative of Michael Beckert, Wilfried Dittmar and Albrecht Stuby, the first edition of the Max Ophüls Preis film festival took place in 1980. At that time the festival, which was directed by Albrecht Stuby until 1990, started with 700 spectators. To this day, the audience and the number of films submitted have grown steadily under the other festival directors Martin Rabius (1991-1992), Christel Drawer (1993-2002), Boris Penth (2003-2005), Birgit Johnson (2006-2007), Gabriella Bandel and Philipp Bräuer (2008-2014), Gabriella Bandel (2015-2016) and Svenja Böttger (since 2017) - in 2018 the festival had 43,500 visitors.
Admitted to Saarbrücken are first, second and third feature films by young female directors, for whom participation in the Max Ophüls Prize represents a significant step in their professional future. Here they meet with their films not only an interested and critical Saarbrücken audience, but also numerous representatives of the industry. The networking of the young generation with multipliers from the film industry is the main focus in Saarbrücken and is actively encouraged by the casual orientation of the festival. The more than 60 participants in the competition categories feature film, documentary, short film and medium-length film can look forward to prize money of around 110,000 euros, some of which will be distributed as distribution funding.
The aim of the Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis is thus to offer a multifaceted and at the same time focused view of the filmmaking of young German-speaking filmmakers and at the same time to provide young female filmmakers with a highly regarded launch pad for a successful career. From Andreas Dresen to Barbara Albert, from Christian Schwochow to Maria Schrader, from Detlev Buck to Sandra Nettelbeck - in over 40 years of festival history, countless talents have launched remarkable and prize-winning careers from Saarbrücken.
In addition to the heart of the festival, the four competitions for the Max Ophüls Preis, it regularly offers a broad supporting programme that expands the focus on further young film talent. Film historical accents, the involvement of guests of honour, an extensive industry programme of discussions, workshops and networking events, as well as the traditional festival club "Lolas Bistro" complete the week as perhaps the most intensive meeting place for the young German-speaking film scene.