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Germany's leading deaf actor, Anne Zander, on CODA, inclusivity and her new film

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Anna Zander in You Shall Hear
Anna Zander in You Shall Hear   -   Copyright  Ben Knabe/ZDF
By Emma Jones

As momentum builds towards Sian Heder’s film CODA possibly winning Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, rising German star Anne Zander is calling for more European productions to give opportunities to deaf actors.

CODA is the coming-of-age story about a hearing teenager in a deaf family. Zander, a deaf actress who has her first leading role in upcoming ZDF drama ‘Du Solltest Hören’ (‘You Should Hear’) thinks there’s still a difference in attitude between the USA and Europe.

“I feel Europe is a little bit behind the USA, there’s not much attention brought to deaf actors,” Zander says.

“If CODA wins, it’s a really important message. To win an Oscar, everyone then realises it’s possible. So if the USA can do it, why can’t we? This is something I really want to see in Germany.”

Berlin-born Zander says she’ll also be rooting for CODA actor Troy Kotsur, the favourite to take the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

“You may be familiar with Marlee Matlin, the deaf actress who won Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God. That was about 35 years ago, and now a second deaf actor could win, so we’ll definitely all be rooting for him. It’s really exciting that the deaf community is more visible because of this, and we’ve been waiting for these movies for a long time.”

Zander has been chosen as one of this year’s representatives of Germany’s creative global talent campaign, Face to Face with German Films. She’ll also appear this year in the Netflix Original film ‘For Jojo’, directed by Barbara Ott. But the actress, who completed training at a Berlin drama school in 2009, says that it’s taken a while to get these opportunities.

“I didn’t always receive a lot of support,” she says of her decision to become an actress. “Rather, it was tough work. I heard, ‘why don’t you stop’ a lot, and I feel my fight went on for more than ten years. Now though, we do want diversity, although the film industry’s not quite there yet. It’s a big hope for all of us to break those barriers and impact audiences who wouldn’t normally think about it.”

Asked what steps the film industry in Europe can take to make productions more inclusive, Zander replies,

“I would just say look at the Oscars, look at them. We have the same kinds of actors in Europe. Let’s get it started and think about what could happen, as the ZDF drama has shown, it could work out perfectly. Whenever I am asked, I just say, ‘we are ready.’ “

Video editor • Theo Farrant