Confidence in European Film Culture
As would appear appropriate for an annual gathering of European filmmakers, the 6th European Film Awards took place at the historical film studios in Potsdam Babelsberg, on a set resembling a movie theatre, with theatre seats, a screen and a projector.
The ceremony was opened by the band Ars Vitalis from Cologne playing Giorgio Moroder's EFA fanfare and German actor and host for the evening Otto Sander welcoming the audience and introducing Wim Wenders, chairman of the European Film Academy who said that the meetings had demonstrated courage and confidence in the future «of our European film culture and industry.»
This year's jury convened in Viareggio (Italy) to screen 32 films from 28 countries and to decide on the winners. Members of the jury were Alexander Adabachian, Ewa Fröling, Laurens Straub, Claudie Ossard, Gian-Maria Volonté, Michael Radford, and jury president André Delvaux.
Co-hosting the evening was French actress Fanny Ardant who introduced her colleagues Senta Berger (Austria) and Max von Sydow (Sweden). They presented the award European Achievement of the Year which went to Nik Powell and Stephen Woolley for the production of THE CRYING GAME.
Italian filmmaker Roberto Benigni sent a video message of himself climbing down a lamppost and demanding: «European movies must change direction !»
This year's Award of Merit was presented by French director Claire Denis and her Belgian colleague Jaco van Dormael and went to Erika and Ulrich Gregor and Naum Kleiman for the Berlin-Moscow connection.
A recurring theme of the evening was GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which as Otto Sander said, threatens to turn film into a mere product, something the French try to circumnavigate with the "exception culturelle". French director Claude Berri and actor Michel Piccoli sent a video message discussing this.
On a lighter note, British actors Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman arrived to announce the European Actress of the Year, joking that more should be done for better roles for men. The award went to an overjoyed Maia Morgenstern who could only stutter in her excitement: «I want to thank God that I am alive today. I want to thank all Romanian actors, I want to thank you all!» Presented by Swedish actress Ewa Fröling, the respective award for European Actor went to Daniel Auteuil from France.
The emotional highlight of the evening came with the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni. Before French director Louis Malle could even begin his laudatory speech, there were standing ovations and lots of «Bravo!» shouts, a situation that repeated after the speech and culminated in the director of LA NOTTE, BLOW UP and RED DESERT in tears.
British comedian Terry Jones presented European Documentary of the Year together with Hans-Robert Eisenhauer, deputy director of the Franco-German cultural TV channel ARTE. Apart from two special mentions for THE MAN WHO LOVES GARY LINEKER by Ylli Hasani and Steve Sklair and 89MM FROM EUROPE by Marcel Lozinski, the award went to Swedish filmmaker Stefan Jarl who has taken 15 years for making MISFITS...
Directors nominated for the Young European Film of the Year were introduced by a clip done at a dinner MTV had invited the nominees to, the winner was then announced by Gian Maria Volonté but not before he had presented the audience with a box to collect support for the filmmakers in Sarajevo. The award went to ORLANDO, produced by Christopher Sheppard and directed by Sally Potter.
This was the first year the European Film Awards included a Critics Award which went to Michael Haneke for BENNY'S VIDEO. The Austrian director who said that the truth is harder to sell than a lie and expressed his hope that politicians understand that film is part of culture and needs to be protected.
The much awaited European Film of the Year was finally presented by German director Werner Herzog and his British colleague Stephen Frears and went to Nikita Mikhalkov for URGA. The Russian director, forgetting that he doesn't speak English and had an interpreter at his side, thanked the European Film Academy saying that the «famous prize» was an «extreme honour» for him.