Max Zähle, together with producer Stefan Gieren, learned of their Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short for “Raju” while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. As Zähle gathered with friends and colleagues around a laptop to see if his film was one of the chosen few, the unforgettable moment was captured on video. Speaking with Gold Derby about the experience, Zähle admitted, “We didn’t believe it, and we didn’t expect it; our plans were [simply] to enjoy the Sundance Festival.”
“Raju” centers around a German couple that travels to India to adopt an orphan. When the child suddenly disappears, the couple realize that they have unwittingly become involved in something more sinister than they initially could have imagined. At almost 24 minutes, it is one of the longer entries among the five nominated films this year and arguably the most serious in tone. It explores moral questions like “do humans have the right to have a child, or how far would they go to have a child?”, which Zähle was particularly interested in when researching and writing the film.
Starring well-known German actors Wotan Wilke Möhring and Julia Richter and directed by Zähle, who co-wrote the screenplay with Florian Kuhn, “Raju” has amassed an impressive list of accolades on its way to the Oscars this month, including the bronze medal for foreign films at the 38th Student Academy Awards last June, Best Foreign Film at the 15th LA Shortsfest, the Grand Prize Patrick Peyton Excellence in Filmmaking Award at the 16th Angelus Student Film Festival in Hollywood, and the Special Jury Recognition and Audience Recognition Awards at the 20th Aspen Shortfest.