A New Star of European Cinema: Tallinn
This year’s 23rd European Film Awards took place in Tallinn, the beautiful capital of Estonia. Beautiful it is indeed - not just because of the Medieval centre with lots of history dripping from the walls - but also because the city was covered in snow which made the whole weekend an unforgetable and picturesque experience. For the EFA administration the snow factor and a Finnair strike became quite a challenge – but without a moment’s hesitation they made everything fall into place. People arrived by bus, train, and boat – perhaps delayed for many hours but delighted to be a part of the weekend.
The weekend was especially memorable because of the Estonian very warm-hearted way of welcoming strangers. While nominees and EFA Members were invited to an official reception by the mayor of Tallinn, international journalists went to an art fair – where one suddenly saw grown-ups getting thrilled by the chance to be children again, making jewelery, postcards, porcelain, and paintings. The following day the citizens of Tallinn had invited the EFA guests for lunch in their private homes so that winners and nominees, EFA Members and journalists flocked to one of the hotels to meet their Estonian hosts and go home with them for a unique lunch experience.
A Music Treat
One of the guests of honour this year was composer Gabriel Yared who received the European Achievement in World Cinema Award 2010. He delighted the citizens of Tallinn and guests with a concert some days before the award ceremony. Presented by the Ghent Film Festival in co-operation with the city of Ghent, the province of East Flanders, the Flemish Community and Fluxys, the concert featured film music by Gabriel Yared, Shigeru Umebayashi and Arvo Pärt. The Brussels Philharmonic – the orchestra of Flanders performed under Dirk Brossé and the French soprano Gaelle Mechaly sang herself into the hearts of the audience.
The Awards Ceremony
The actual ceremony was held at the Nokia Concert Hall on Saturday, 4 December, where a surprise choir performance at the red carpet gave a first taste of Estonia's rich choral culture and delighted the arriving guests. Winners, nominees, and EFA Members – altogether 1,400 guests - were welcomed with an hilarious intro clip showing hostess Anke Engelke dressed up as EFA President Wim Wenders and last year’s winner Michael Haneke, joking about the Awards and how they should find an Estonian host to stand beside her - a task excellently solved by winning Estonian actor Märt Avandi to lead through the evening together with the German comedienne.
The evening's first award, the European Co-Production Award - Prix Eurimages, was presented by French actor Jean-Marc Barr to Turkish producer Zeynep Özbatur Atakan who commented, "I'm so honoured and happy because this is very important for Turkey!" Next on stage were Swedish actress Amanda Ooms and her British colleague Edward Hoogg (one of the EFP's Shooting Stars 2010), presenting Giora Bejach with the Carlo di Palma European Cinematographer Award for LEBANON. Sylvain Chomet's THE ILLUSIONIST then received the award European Film Academy Animated Feature Film. There to receive the award from Estonian actors Juhan and Lembit Ulfsak was the film's producer Bob Last. German actress Hannelore Elsner and her Danish colleague Nikolaj Lie Kaas then presented THE GHOST WRITER with the awards for European Screenwriter and European Director. The film's director Roman Polanski accepted the awards live via Skype from his living-room in Paris. The French-German-British co-production celebrated a smashing success at the European Film Awards receiving a total of six awards also including European Film, European Actor (Ewan McGregor), European Production Designer (Albrecht Konrad) and European Composer (Alexandre Desplat). Italy then took the stage with actress Alba Rohrwacher and actor Michele Riondino (both of them Shooting Stars) who presented the award European Editor to the film CARLOS. Another Shooting Star, Agata Buzek from Poland, announced this year's winner of the People's Choice Award. Voted for by film fans across Europe and supported by a network of media partners, the prize went to MR NOBODY by Jaco van Dormael who stated afterwards, "it's a great moment for me!
A true highlight of the evening came with the presentation of the honorary award to Gabriel Yared when surprise presenters Juliette Binoche and Carolyn Choa held very emotional speeches for the visibly touched composer.
Adding a bit of humour to the show was Russian director Victor Kossakovsky who presented the EFA Documentary - Prix ARTE and complained that documentary directors never win the award for best director. The prize went to NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT by Patricio Guzmán who accepted the award together with his producer and wife Renate Sachse. EFA Ambassador Maria de Medeiros, actress & director from Portugal, then announced this year's European Discovery which went to LEBANON. The film's director Samuel Maoz joked that it was strange "to be discovered when you're almost 50," and added, "but maybe the message is that it's never too late!"
Another highlight was the presentation of the EFA Lifetime Achievement Award to Swiss actor Bruno Ganz. Wim Wenders held a very personal speech in his honour, recollecting a first meeting between Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper on the set for THE AMERICAN FRIEND.
Other awards went to Sylvie Testud (European Actress for LOURDES) and Katarzyna Klimkiewicz (EFA Short Film for HANOI - WARSAW) and after the show finished, dinner, dance, and more surprise choir performances took place on the various floors of the Concert Hall as a perfect ending to a memorable weekend in Tallinn. Next year's European Film Awards will return to Berlin, seat of the European Film Academy, before the 25th anniversary will bring the ceremony to Malta.