Maria von Heland was born in Stockholm, Sweden. After graduating from highschool, she first turned to journalism, earning a bachelor of Fine Arts from Rider College in Lawrenceville, New Jersey in 1987.
In the same year, she went to New York to take acting lessons. From 1990 to 1995, she studied film at the California Institute of the Arts and at the School of Film and Video in Los Angeles, concluding her studies with a Master of Fine Arts degree.
In 1992, during her studies in California, she attended the Konrad Wolf Academy of Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg as an exchange student.
Maria von Heland attracted attention with her short films, “Die Stärkere” (1994), “Chainsmoker” (1997) and “Real Men Eat Meat,” for which she received such international awards as the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Short Film Award (1997), the Multicurta Award, Sao Paulo (1998), the International Canal+ Award (1998), and the Grand Prix du Court Métrage, Valenciennes (1999). In 1998 she collaborated with Belgian filmmaker Peter Brosens on his multi-awardwinning documentary State of Dogs, where Maria joined the shooting in Mongolia, wrote the storytelling voice over and assisted in the editing process. In 1999, she directed the television feature “Recycled” for WDR. One year later, she was nominated for the Shooting Star New Directors Award, Baden-Baden.
Her first theatrical feature, the award-winning teenage drama Big Girls Don’t Cry, was released internationally by Columbia Pictures in 2002. The young girls who starred in the film; Anna Maria Mühe, Karoline Herfurth and Jenny Ulrich, went on to become the new stars of German cinema.
She returned to Sweden where she directed “Orka!Orka!” for Swedish television, as well as “Those Who Whisper” starring Pernilla August and Anders Ekborg. In 2006 her second feature film “SÖK” was nominated for two Swedish Filmawards “Guldbagge”, as well as the Prix des Amériques in Montreal. Lia Boysen won a Guldbagge for her performance as supporting actress in “SÖK”.
In 2007 she directed Richard Curtis “Girl in the Café” under the title “Suddenly Gina” (Frühstück mit einer Unbekannten) starring Julia Jentsch and Jan Joseph Liefers for German television SAT 1– a Cinema for Peace initiative.
Her screenplay “Hilde”, about German diva Hildegard Knef (played by Heike Makatsch) opened in the Berlinale in 2009 and was released by Warner Brothers.
In 2010 she directed the Children’s Film Sterntaler (Startalers)produced by Uschi Reich for Bavaria. The film won the Best In Fest Award at the Chicago International Filmfestival, competing against 236 films from 42 countries. Sterntaler won a Bavarian TV award for Best Directing and was nominated for an Emmy 2013.
In 2013 Maria directed the children’s film The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs, written by Rochus Hahn and produced by Uschi Reich for Bavaria/ARD/SWR. The critic praised film premiered on the Schlingel Filmfestival and was first aired on National German Television on Dec 26.
Also in 2013 Maria directed the TV Feature “Göttliche Funken”, written by Sathyan Ramesh and Maria von Heland and produced by Nataly Kudiabor. The film premiered in Emden Film Festival on May 10th and was nominated for a CREATIVE ENERGY AWARD in Emden. It was seen by over 3 Million on ARD, Germany’s Channel 1, on May 30th, 2014 and received with raving reviews by the critics.
The adaptation of François Lelord’s bestseller Hector and the Search for Happiness starring Starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård, Jean Reno, Christopher Plummer and Barry Atsma written by Maria von Heland and Peter Chelsom & Tinker Lindsay and directed by Chelsom enjoyed a major international release including the UK, Germany and the US last autumn.
Maria’s adaptation for TV series of the vampire novels HEIRS OF THE NIGHT produced by Hamster Film (Dorothe Beinemeier, Leontin Petit, Joost de Vries), Phillip Kreuzer and Maipo Film (Synnøve Hørsdal) – is in the financing phase. Scripts for season 1 and 2 are in development, Maria is the show creator and head writer.
The feelgood comedy REAL MEN DON’T DANCE (aka Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof) is in the financing phase, written and directed by Maria von Heland, produced by Susa Kusche, Sigi Kamml and Christian Alvert of Syrreal Film. Leading roles are being cast at present.
Credit: Photographer Sabine Stumpp
Credit: Photographer Dietmar Gust.
MARIA WINS TOP GERMAN TV PRIZE Munich May 4th 2012: Maria von Heland won the prestigious Bavarian Film Prize, broadcast live on German television, when she was voted Best Director for the children’s Christmas story the Star Talers (Die Sterntaler). The story is adapted from a Fairytale by the Brothers Grimm about a plucky little girl called Mina who, with the help of a talking dog, rescues the people of her village from the clutches of the evil king. The film screened on German television’s Channel 1, ARD, on Boxing Day 2011. Star Talers had previously won the Best of Fest award in the Live Action Feature category at Facets International Children¹s Film Festival, the ‘Cannes for kids’ held in Chicago in October. The Jury for the Bavarian Film Prize, one of German television’s top awards funded by the Government of Bavaria, made special mention of the way in which Maria tackled the difficult fairy-tale format. “So much love for the genre, which doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, so much care and above all skill merit special praise for Maria von Heland,” declared the official citation. Born in Stockholm and educated in the UK, the US, France and Germany, Maria has lived in Berlin for the past 20 years, writing and directing films. Her first feature, Big Girls Don’t Cry, was released internationally by Columbia Pictures in 2002. More recently, she wrote the screenplay for the German biopic Hilde (about Hildegard Knef), which was in the official selection in the Berlinale 2009.