La Sierra professor gains International Emmy


New York City, United States

An adjunct film and television professor at Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned La Sierra University received an International Emmy award for a TV movie that told the story of a real-life miracle.

I’ve been blessed with a good career, but I’ve never had responses like this to a film.

Christoph Silber, a noted screenwriter and adjunct film and television professor at La Sierra was among television’s top talent to receive the coveted honor at a ceremony in New York City, the school reported in a news release. Silber’s film was selected from a field of only four nominees worldwide in the “TV Movie/MiniSeries” category. 

Filmmaker and La Sierra adjunct professor Christoph Silber. [Photo courtesy: La Sierra University]

The 10 awards for programs and performances included an Emmy for A Day for a Miracle, an Austrian-German television movie that aired in Austria and Germany earlier this year to a record audience. Drawn from real-life events first portrayed in The New Yorker magazine, the story relays the trauma experienced by a Christian farm couple who discover their four-year-old daughter floating in an icy pond. Although deemed clinically dead by medical personnel, a young, inexperienced doctor decides in the face of strong opposition and terrible odds to try to save her.

Nearly 75 percent of the movie takes place in the hospital operating room, capturing in detail the heroic efforts of the physician as he pulls out all the stops under extreme stress to revive the child during a short window of time in which such recovery might be possible.

“It’s a story of this doctor who makes that call and says, ‘I’m not going to give up on this girl.’ He hangs in there,” Silber said.

The story attracted Silber because it addresses “this huge moral question, about how far can we interfere with life, do miracles exist, or can we, through our own resilience for hope, make something miraculous happen by not letting go,” he said. “We’re leaving it up to the viewer to decide.”

The film was produced by Rowboat Film-und Fernsehproduktion in co-production with Graf Filmproduktion, ZDF and ORF in association with BetaFilms GmbH in Munich, Germany.

Following the release of the movie, numerous physicians and nurses wrote letters thanking the show’s creators for making a movie that accurately depicts the world in which they work. “I’ve been blessed with a good career, but I’ve never had responses like this to a film,” Silber said.

Silber, raised bilingually in Berlin and London, has written, co-written and/or co-produced over 25 films and dozens of television episodes in Germany, Austria, England and the United States, his adoptive home. Dubbed “one of Europe’s hottest new screenwriters” by Screen International, his films have gathered laurels such as BAFTA and European Film Award wins, Golden Globe and Emmy nominations and numerous honors at international film festivals.

He is particularly known for period films such as the 2003 international hit Good Bye Lenin and the critically acclaimed 2008 mountain drama, North Face.

In 2011 the Vilcek Foundation honored Silber as “an immigrant filmmaker . . . whose creative spirit enlivens and inspires American cinema.” His most recent projects include the multiple award-winning New York love story, My Last Day Without You and the period caper Banklady.

Silber is currently working with a production company in London on a television mini-series titled Nuremberg. The project is based on the famous Nuremberg trials that took place between in 1945 and 1949 in Nuremberg, Germany to hold Nazi war leaders accountable for crimes against humanity.

In between television projects, Silber teaches two television screenwriting and writing classes each quarter at La Sierra University, his first experience with regular classroom instruction. He arrived in 2012 at the behest of the program’s director and professor Rodney Vance. The two met last year at the SonScreen Film Festival in Simi Valley where Silber conducted a question-and-answer session with students.

Upon Vance’s invitation to teach, Silber visited La Sierra. “I fell in love with the campus, with the atmosphere here,” he said. “I’m really enjoying it. The first class I taught I saw freshmen who were insecure. I saw them express themselves and grow [in many] ways. I’m really looking forward to the future. We have big plans.”

— with reporting from Larry R. Becker, La Sierra University