Pierce Brosnan

European Film 2016

Maria Alyokhina's call to action for Oleg Sentsov

European Documentary 2016 FIRE AT SEA

On 10 December 2016, European filmmakers, EFA Members, guests, nominees and winners gathered in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016, for the 29th European Film Awards.

The 29th European Film Awards at Wroclaw’s National Forum of Music started with an opening clip of a refugee running away from a border guard. Ending up on stage, the former turns out to be Maciej Stuhr, the evening’s host (the latter is played by the German actor Tom Wlaschiha). Reminding the audience of the division between East and West, he talked about the European Film Awards beginning when Krzysztof Kieslowski went on stage and stated “I hope that Poland is part of Europe”.

First presenter of the evening was Turkish-German actor Numan Acar, “I swear my beard is real”, who presented the two awards voted for by the audience: The EFA Young Audience Award, voted for by 12-14-year-olds. The award was already presented in May, after a day packed with screenings to the young juries in 25 European countries, to Emelie Deleuze for MISS IMPOSSIBLE. The People’s Choice Award, voted for online by film-lovers across Europe and beyond, went to BODY by Małgorzata Szumowska who cried out: “Yes, Poland is a part of Europe, and will be!”

The presentation of the majority of the awards, voted for by the more then 3,200 members of the European Film Academy (EFA), all of them European filmmakers, kicked off with French actress Ludivine Sagnier who announced European Screenwriter 2016 which went to Maren Ade for TONI ERDMANN. The German director said that writing the script was a long journey and thanked everybody who helped, and especially her father for his humour which, she said, “helps so much, not only for writing scripts”.

Agnieszka Holland, Chairwoman of the EFA Board, sent a video message from the Oval Office, stating that she would love to be there but had “another, more pressing duty”, namely “to save the world”. She would, she said, remain until peace and tolerance would be restored. “From the most important chair in the world,” she reminded all filmmakers that their job just became far more important.

Lithuanian actress Aistė Diržiūtė then came on stage to announce the award European Animated Feature Film 2016 for MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI by Claude Barras. The Swiss director said: “I don’t like competition, especially cultural competition. But I’m happy to have this [award]!” Producer Pauline Gygax added a reminder to all: “Europe is your chance and your treasure!”

Maciej Stuhr then presented the award European Short Film 2016 to 9 DAYS - FROM MY WINDOW IN ALEPPO by Thomas Vroege, Floor van der Meulen and Issa Touma the latter of which dedicated the award to all civilians in Aleppo.

Małgorzata Szumowska returned to the stage as a presenter and stated that artists should have the freedom to express themselves as they like. She presented the first three of this year’s excellence awards, which are chosen by a jury: European Cinematographer 2016 – Prix Carlo di Palma to Camilla Hjelm Knudsen for LAND OF MINE, European Editor 2016 to Anne Østerud & Janus Billeskov Jansen for THE COMMUNE. The Danish editors thanked especially actress Trine Dyrholm, who was among the nominees in the audience, saying, “every timeyou are in a frame, we never want to cut away from you!” Finally, European Sound Designer 2016 went to Radosław Ochnio for 11 MINUTES.

EFA President Wim Wenders came on stage and stated “if there’s one man who is really missed badly tonight, it’s Andrzej Wajda” and exclaimed: “Andrzej, what are we going to do without you?” The legendary Polish filmmaker had sent a thank you letter to the academy, accepting the award, and after his sudden death the academy decided to give the award anyway, it was accepted by to two former students of the Andrej Wajda Master School, Bodo Kox and Agnieszka Smoczyńska. The latter stated that Andrzej Wajda taught her that “most important is truth, freedom and solidarity”.

Actresses Kasia Smutniak (Poland) and Lia Boysen (Sweden) introduced the nominated documentaries. The award finally went to FIRE AT SEA by Gianfranco Rosi. The Italian director reversed the call in his film “What is your position, what is your position” to the question “what is my positon, where do I stand – in times like these, when somebody is asking for help”.

Danish director Susanne Bier held the laudatory speech for Pierce Brosnan, recipient of the honorary European Achievement in World Cinema award. To standing ovations, the Irish actor stated that he was “over the moon to be with you tonight”. He finished with a passionate call on young filmmakers to “Keep good strength, be truthful to yourself, and make movies of the heart!”

Russian activist Maria Alyokhina talked about her activity with Pussy Riot and reminded guests and spectators of Oleg Sentsov, the Ukrainian director who remains imprisoned in Russia. “I believe that the community is stronger than any government! As a community, we can change things!”

With his personal discovery of the year, his young son, Maciej Stuhr called on stage Swedish actress Malin Levanon who introduced the nominees for European Discovery 2016 – Prix FIPRESCI. The award went to THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI by Juho Kuosmanen. The Finnish director joked that he was happy about distribution of the film across Europe but worried that the distributors would soon find out that it was “a Finnish debut black and white film about a boxer who nobody knows.”

Irish actor Liam Cunningham and Belgian actress Veerle Baetens introduced this year’s acting awards which both went to TONI ERDMANN, European Actor to Peter Simonischek and European Actress to Sandra Hüller. The Austrian actor was visibly baffled as he thanked the academy and the film’s director Maren Ade. The German actress thanked the director for trusting her and her family for taking care of her child when she is working.

Spanish actor Carlos Areces talked about the challenge of living in today’s world, and feeling like a Spanish sausage in a too tight suit. He presented the European Co-Production Award – Prix EURIMAGES to Leontine Petit, a woman who, as he said, brings light and makes things possible. In a passionate speech, the Dutch producer thanked the academy and EURIMAGES and stated that all her live she felt “more European than Dutch”.

To standing ovations, German director Volker Schlöndorff and Spanish actress Ángela Molina next presented the honorary Lifetime Achievement Award to Jean-Claude Carrière. The legendary French screenwriter thanked all directors he ever worked with because, he said, “a script is nothing without a director, it’s a black tie without a neck”.

Another special moment followed with a performance of Zbigniew Preisner’s  “Song for the Unification of Europe”, originally composed for Krzysztof Kieslowski’s THREE COLOURS: BLUE. The composer then presented another excellence award, European Composer 2016 to Ilya Demutsky for THE STUDENT.

German actor Tom Wlaschiha then announced that European Comedy 2016 went to A MAN CALLED OVE. The Swedish director Hannes Holm said that he had never been successful with his comedies so this time he decided not to write one.

Polish acting legend Daniel Olbrychski singingly presented the nominations for European Director and announced Maren Ade as the recipient of the award for TONI ERDMANN.

To present the remaining excellence awards, Polish actress Maja Ostaszewska teamed up with host Macej Stuhr. European Production Designer went to Alice Normington for SUFFRAGETTE, European Costume Designer 2016 to Stefanie Bieker and European Hair & Make-up Artist 2016 to Barbara Kreuzer, both for LAND OF MINE.

Belgian actress Cécile de France finally presented the award European Film. The nominees were each introduced by a patron: German actor Christian Berkel  for ELLE, his British colleague Dave Johns for I, DANIEL BLAKE, Spanish actress Adriana Ugarte for JULIETA, Irish composer Stephen Rennicks for ROOM, and German actor Trystan Pütter for TONI ERDMANN. The award went to TONI ERDMANN and made the film success complete – five awards for five nominations. Congratulations!