Edward Berger’s German-language All Quiet On The Western Front has been a phenomenon for Netflix since being launched last autumn. It is ranked fourth on the list of most popular non-English language films and has been in the streamer’s top 10 in over 90 countries, including Germany, the United States, Australia, France and South Korea.
Sasha Buhler, director, international origin film at Netflix, is grateful for the success. There is a lot of traveling to do over the next few days. This weekend, she will be heading to London for the Bafta Film Awards where the film has 14 nominations. In a few weeks, she will be in Los Angeles for the Oscars, where it is in the running for nine awards.
The project that first crossed her desk in late 2019 looked very different to the one up for all of those awards.
“The film was brought to me as an English language film with a South African director,” Buhler recalls, while in town for the Berlinale,
She thought the project was interesting but didn’t, at that stage, see “a compelling reason to make another World War One film.”
Flash forward three months to the pre-pandemic Berlinale of 2020 where Rocket Science was selling the film in the EFM. Berger and Malte Grunert, a German producer, were now attached. Buhler agreed that he would meet them.
“Edward presented his vision for it, and I was immediately sold on the idea. It was a novel idea. Buhler recognized that [by Erich Maria Rermarque) published 95 years ago had never been told from a German perspective,” Buhler explains.
Berger, she realised, was proposing to tell “the loser’s side” of the story and to directly confront German shame and guilt over the war – and in the German language too. “I thought that was so exciting and so important.” Buhler remembers. “We find that at Netflix it doesn’t matter what language things are in…it does matter that it is authentic
“When Edward pitched it, I was completely sold. All I wanted to do was support him in his vision of how he wanted to make it. It was fully baked in his head.
Half-German, half-American herself, the Netflix exec says she is “surprised and delighted” that audiences internationally have “accepted this German-language film, that people are willing to watch with subtitles, with dubs.”
She says German audiences have embraced the film too. “War is a difficult topic for Germans because of the shame and the guilt. They have a hard time digesting it [but] All Quiet was not a popular film.
It was important for Buhler to promote diversity in the work she supports. She acknowledges All Quiet
has few women on screen.[But]” It’s really exciting to have women in decision-making positions at Netflix and that I could go ahead and greenlight
All Quiet.”While editing was underway on All Quiet, Buhler was busy with her next project, Faraway
, “an escapist, life-affirming rom-com” which was shot on an idyllic island in Croatia.
She can’t put a number on how many German films she is backing in 2023. She says, “We have a budget and can make two films from it and we could make 10 films from it.” “It depends on what we think will be impactful.”In 2022, her other films at Netflix were Peter Thorwarth’s Blood & Gold, another war movie but in a less earnest groove than All Quiet, and Boris Kunz’s high-concept sci-fi thriller, Paradise
All these films are “partner produced.” Buhler describes herself as “a studio exec” who works with producers. “And they produce…we fully fund all of our productions, and we support the production any way we can.”01001010