In Barcelona, the 17th European Film Awards, Premios Europeos de Cine (in Spanish) or Premis Europeus de Cinema (in Catalan) quickly acquired a distinctly Spanish flavour. While hosts Maria de Medeiros (Portugal) and Juanjo Puigcorbé (Spain) made sure that the evening also reflected the diversity of languages spoken in Europe – the main languages of the evening were Spanish and English.
In his welcome speech, EFA President Wim Wenders pointed out that the European Film Academy is “a bit like the Sagrada Familia… because the academy, too, is under permanent construction.”
French actor Jean-Marc Barr was to present the first winner of the evening, the newly created award European Composer. Inside the envelope, however, he found no name but a score and only when the band La Trabant started playing was it obvious that the award went to Bruno Coulas for LES CHORISTES.
Internationally known filmmakers and EFA Members such as Zülfü Livaneli, Jerzy Stuhr, Najwa Nimri, Renée Soutendijk, István Szabó and Eduard Fernández served as patrons, each of them introducing one of the six nominees for EUROPEAN FILM 2004. Their speeches were personal statements, passionate pleas for the individual films.
A first highlight arrived with the presentation, to standing ovations, of the award European Achievement in World Cinema by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgaard and EFA Chairman Humbert Balsan. The award went to Norwegian actress and director Liv Ullmann who said in her speech, “very much of my education has been with European film and in the best of moments I have found out watching the screen who I am and why I am.”
Another recurring theme of the evening were so-called “postcards”, little clips shot by film students from Dublin, Tallinn, Prague, Warsaw, Jerusalem and Palestine. In their clips, they went on a search for "traces of Spain" in their home countries. What they found demonstrates the richness and influence of the Spanish culture as well as the creativity of the next generation of filmmakers from a visit by Don Quixote to the separation wall in Jerusalem, a bullfight in the streets of Prague or an Almodóvaresque woman, high-heeled and red-lipped, begging for a man at the Warsaw central station.
European Screenwriter, presented by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur, went to Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri for LOOK AT ME. Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta announced the award European Cinematographer for Eduardo Serra for GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING. And French director Patrice Chereau revealed the winner of the European Film Academy Non-European Film – Prix Screen International: 2046, by Wong Kar-Wai.
Another highlight was the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. Presented by Victoria Abril, the award went to Spanish director Carlos Saura who pointed out that “the European cinema has to find a way so that in every country we can watch the wonderful movies of the other countries.”
Spanish actress Mercedes Sampietro, president of the Spanish Film Academy, presented the award European Director to Alejandro Amenábar for THE SEA INSIDE and Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov sang a piece from “Dulce Cataluna” before announcing, together with EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, the winner of the award European Actress: Imelda Staunton for VERA DRAKE. The British actress, when she arrived breathlessly, explained: “long walk, short legs!” and thanked the film’s makers, particularly director Mike Leigh.
German actress Franka Potente and her Spanish colleague Sergi Lopez awarded Javier Bardem with the prize European Actor for THE SEA INSIDE and finally EFA Board Member Assumpta Serna and President Wim Wenders announced the European Film 2004 which went to HEAD ON by Fatih Akin.
Other awards went to Andrea and Antonio Frazzi for STOLEN CHILDHOOD (European Film Academy Discovery – Prix Fassbinder). They started in English and went via French to an Italian (la mia lingua) “Grazie, Europa!” The Critics Award – Prix FIPRESCI went to TRILOGY- THE WEEPING MEADOW by Theo Angelopoulos, the documentary award- Prix Arte to Hubert Sauper for DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE, and the short film award – Prix UIP to J’ATTENDRAI LE SUIVANT, by Philippe Orreindy.