TOYLAND, an Oscar winner


Germany, 1942 – David Silberstein and Heinrich Meissner are best friends—they practice the piano and play together in the neighborhood. However, there is a dark cloud hanging over their friendship.
To protect Herman from the horrors of the Holocaust, everyone, including his own mother and best friend David, never talk about the pending deportation of the Silbersteins. Instead, Heinrich is told the Silbersteins are going on a long trip to TOYLAND – and so Heinrich wants to join them. With his little suitcase all packed, he is ready to go…

The film effortlessly jumps back and forth in time, telling of the final hours prior to the Silbersteins’ departure and Heinrich’s disappearance.

Once Heinrich’s mother discovers her son has gone, she races to the train station in search of him; only, he seems to have vanished. But rather than leave the station empty handed, Mrs. Meissner grabs the opportunity to rescue her son’s best friend, David, by pretending to have found her own son.

In the final scene, we see two sets of older hands playing the piano – indicating the two boys survived the war and remained friends forever. With this beautiful ending and epilogue, Freydank and his co-author, Johann Brunners, add another dimension to their story. This is not only a film about friendship – which can last over decades and beyond regimes and religions – it is also a film about civic courage and humanity; about a mother’s love for her child, and for life itself.

The uplifting message and moral of the film, despite it dire, dark and tragic setting, makes it a memorable piece, resonating well beyond its screen time.

Earlier this year, the Academy nominated and then later awarded the film with an Oscar for Best Live Action Short. This “dream come true” completed a 4-year-long production cycle as Freydank recalled in his acceptance speech.
“I thank the Academy. I directed this movie. Unfortunately, I produced it as well, so I spent four years of my life on this fourteen-minute movie and it was a story I really wanted to tell. And I thank all my cast and crew.”

In addition to the most prestigious award in filmmaking, the short has garnered more than 20 additional awards and honors from festivals around the world. Congratulations, Jochen Alexander Freydank!

For more information on TOYLAND/SPIELZEUGLAND, please visit


About Author

Tanja Meding

Tanja Meding :Since moving to New York from Germany in 2003, Tanja Meding has worked as a producer for Maysles Films and other independent production companies. Amongst others, she produced SALLY GROSS-THE PLEASURE OF STILLNESS by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile which aired on WNET/Thirteen and Channel 25 and is now available on DVD from Since 2007, Tanja has been producing short films by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder: JACKIE & JUDY premiered at DANCE ON CAMERA at LINCOLN CENTER was awarded with a PEARL at the POOL 2010 Festival in Berlin. Upcoming this September is a video installation of two new shorts: BOXING and THE COLLECTION at NY's newly opened New York Live Arts building in Chelsea. In addition, Tanja is the co-producer of Gabriella Bier's LOVE DURING WARTIME, a documentary about an Israeli dancer and her Palestinian husband. The film had its US premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed in the US through 7th Art Releasing. Furthermore, she is the US co-producer of Pascale Obolo's documentary CALYPSO ROSE, LIONESS OF THE JUNGLE. Currently in development with Claudia Brazzale is RETRACING STEPS, a portrait documentary about a group of international dancers and choreographers and their lives 20 years after they first met in NYC.

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