Sahling, Bernd


Bernd Sahling was born in Naumburg, East Germany, in 1961. After an internship at the DEFA Studio for Feature Film in 1983, he joined the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (now Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf) in 1986. His 1988 student film, Aber wenn man so leben will wie ich, was the first GDR film that put East German punk culture at the center of a film story. This film discussed an East German taboo and was therefore controversial. Sahling graduated as a film director in 1991. His diploma film, Alles wird gut, picks up on his 1988 interview with the East Berlin punk, who moved to West Germany shortly before the Wall came down. The film was nominated as Best Documentary at the Mannheim International Film Festival.


Sahling worked as a director, writer and assistant director to Rolf Losansky, Hannelore Unterberg and Helmut Dziuba from 1985 to 1992. His collaboration with director Helmut Dziuba, who was known for his outstanding children’s and youth films as well as his work with lay actors, was a big influence on Sahling’s career. Sahling served as assistant director for Dziuba’s children’s film Jan auf der Zille, set in 1934 Germany. He also worked on Dziuba’s Jana und Jan, a film that draws on the experiences of inmates of a GDR youth detention center in the turbulent months before and after German unification in 1990. 


The theme of Sahling’s films is often children faced with difficulties and conflict. Dziuba was not only Sahling’s mentor but he also co-wrote the script for Sahling’s full-length feature film debut, Die Blindgänger. This 2004 film, about two teenagers who are blind and live in a boarding school, was shown at many international film festivals and won major awards, including the German Film Award in Gold. Sahling’s 2013 children’s film Kopfüber, about a ten-year-old boy who suffers from ADHD, also received international attention. 


In 1995, Sahling was awarded a yearlong DAAD fellowship at Northwestern University and Columbia College Chicago. After his return to Germany, he worked as a family support provider at the Potsdam Youth Welfare Service. Since 2004, he has put on film workshops for children and young people in Europe, Asia and the U.S. From 2009-13, he lectured at the University of Duisburg-Essen.


Since 2020, Bernd Sahling has filmed and produced documentaries, interviews and live streams for the Berlin-based cie. toula limainois dance company.


Bernd Sahling is a member of the German Film Academy and also known as a scriptwriter and author of radio plays. He has been a member of the jury at many prestigious national and international children’s film festivals.

Festivals & Awards:

2021 Nominee for Best European Documentary for Corona-Ferien, DOXS! Festival Duisburg, Germany
2014 Nominee for Best Children’s Film for Kopfüber, German Film Critics Association Award
2013 Best Director & Best Children’s Performance for Kopfüber, Olympia Film Festival in Pyrgos, Greece
2013 UNICEF Prize of the Children’s Jury for Kopfüber, Vienna Children’s Film Festival, Austria
2013 Nominee, European Film Academy’s Young Audience Award for Kopfüber
2010 Prize of Excellence for Ednas Tag, Xi’ian, China 
2004 Euro Kid’s Film Award for Die Blindgänger, Zlin Children’s Film Festival, Czech Republic
2004 First Prize for Die Blindgänger, Olympia Children’s Film Festival Pyrgos, Greece
2004 CIFEJ Award Die Blindgänger, Montevideo Film festival for Children and Young People, Uruguay
2004 Golden Cairo for Die Blindgänger, Cairo International Film Festival, Egypt
2004 UNICEF Prize of the Children’s Jury for Die Blindgänger, Vienna, Austria
2004 German Film Award in Gold for Die Blindgänger
2004 Cinekid Film Award – Honorable Mention for Die Blindgänger, Cinekid, Amsterdam, The Netherland
2004 Winner Adult’s Jury Award for Die Blindgänger, Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, USA
2004 Winner for Die Blindgänger, Carrousel International du Film in Rimouski, Canada
2004 Winner Best Feature Film, Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk – Special Mention for Die Blindgänger, Berlin International Film Festival, Germany
2004 Cristal Bear – Special Mention for Die Blindgänger, Berlin International Film Festival, Germany 
2004 Nominee for Starboy Award for Die Blindgänger, Oulu International Children’s Film Festival, Finland
1991 Best Documentary Nominee for Alles wird gut, International Film Festival Mannheim, Germany 
1988 Best Documentary for Aber wenn man so leben will wie ich, Student’s Film Festival Potsdam, East Germany 



2021 Inmitten, Episode 1-10 (Cie. Toula Limnaios, Part 1-10, doc.)
2021 Corona-Ferien (Corona-Breaktime, doc.)
2020 Filmland Thüringen (Film Country: Thuringia, TV, doc.)
2019 Abschied gehört zum Leben (Farewell Is Part of Life, doc.) 
2019 Koschka
2017 Ab morgen bin ich mutig (Brave as of Tomorrow)
2016 So gut es geht (As Good as Possible)
2013 Hin & Weg (Over the Moon)
2013 Kopfüber (Upside Down)
2008 Ednas Tag (Edna’s Day, doc.)
2004 Die Blindgänger (The Blind Flyers)
1999 Gymnasium oder wir werden sehen (High School, or We’ll See, TV, doc.)
1992 Jana und Jan (Jana and Jan, asst. dir.)
1991 Im Nest der Katze (In the Cat’s Nest, TV) 
1990 Alles wird gut (It’ll Be OK, TV, doc.)
1988 Aber wenn man so leben will ich (But Living Like I Do, doc.)
1986 …und ich dachte, du magst mich (…and I Thought You Like Me, asst. dir.)
1985 Jan auf der Zille (Jan on the Barge, asst. dir.)
1985 Lied für Anne (Song for Anne, doc.)


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