To mark the European Film Awards’ 30th anniversary, we were fortunate enough to be invited over to Berlin to celebrate cinema from across the continent, in a profound, entertaining evening that awarded some of the very finest features to hit screens across the past year.
Taking place at the grandiose theatre Haus Der Berliner Festspiele; a venue we know all too well from our coverage of the Berlin Film Festival, the venue hosted some of the biggest names in European cinema, with guests ranging from the likes of Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Stellan Skarsgard and Wim Wenders.
Beginning with a fantastic, politically minded intro by host, and German comedian Thomas Hermanns, it became clear from the offset that both Brexit and the recent #MeToo campaign were high on the agenda. But it wasn’t all political, for it proved to be a real celebration of the art-form too, with several set-pieces conducted by a collective of talented performers reimagining scenes of some of the most famous movies to have ever graced this ingenuous continent.
As sat sheepishly in the back row (we were one of the few British outlets in attendance), the first award of the night was presented by Irish actor Jack Reynor for European Short Film, awarded to Timecode. What followed was Animated Feature Film, given to the resourceful and creative endeavour Loving Vincent, as co-directors (and husband and wife) Hugh Welchman and Dorata Kobiela took to the stage. A deserving winner, beating off competition from Ethel & Ernest in the process (which we adored).
Then came an urgent appeal concerning the jailed Russian director Oleg Sentsov, with Ai Weiwei in attendance to show his support (looking fantastic in a blue hoodie in a room full of dinner jackets – good man). The next award was given to Ruben Ostlund for Palme d’Or winner The Square (get used to hearing his name in this article) for Best Screenwriter.
What followed was a fabulous montage celebrating European cinema. With highlights from so many remarkable productions, it was joyous to see so many British films included, reminding us of just how proud we are to be a member of this great continent. We’re so often conditioned to pit out cinema against Hollywood, but during this montage is became clear how similar we are to our European neighbours, and we couldn’t be more happy. The politics extended to a quite breathtaking speech by Wim Wenders, who delivered a powerful monologue on the flawed, dangerous notion of nationalism. Receiving a rapturous round of applause he said, “Europe is not the problem, Europe is the solution”, setting the tone for the evening.
Cedomir Kolar then won for European Co-Production, and Ostlund was back up on the stage to collect his second gong for the evening, this time for Best Director. In an unconventional acceptance speech, Ostlund made the entire room scream. Let’s hope he gets invited to the Oscars.
Julie Delpy then won for her Achievement in World Cinema. Having already been determined beforehand, she took to the stage to give one of the funniest speech’s of the evening. As in a bid to fund her next movie, of which she is 600k short – she declared she was selling raffle tickets at the after-party, and the winner would be granted breakfast with her the following morning, and a small role in the film (if it ever gets made). Given the queue to buy a ticket after the event had finished, we’re somewhat confident that it will be. In the meantime, her Before trilogy co-star Ethan Hawke gave a message via video, to celebrate her success.
European Documentary was awarded to Communion, presented by two actors dressed up as the lead roles in last year’s big winner Toni Erdmann. Yes, he worse that big hairy suit. Yes, we laughed. Next up, the chair of the EFA Agnieszka Holland presented the Lifetime Achievement award to Russian auteur Aleksandr Sokurov, before the crowd were treated to a musical interlude courtesy of the stars of the 2012 Belgian drama The Broken Circle Breakdown.
On to the acting awards, presented, this time, by the actual lead stars of Toni Erdmann, Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek. Best Actor went to The Square’s Claes Bang, while Best Actress was awarded to Alexandra Borbely for the Golden Bear winner On Body and Soul, beating our very own Florence Pugh, nominated for Lady Macbeth, in what was the strongest category of the evening. The Hungarian Borbely delivered a moving, teary speech – which is somewhat ironic given the role she won for was a character who struggled to confront and display her emotions. The actress had no such problem.
Then European Comedy went to, you guessed it, The Square. Before audience awards were given to Fatih Akin’s Goodbye Berlin (Young Audience Award) and then Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (People’s Choice). Given the titles of the two aforementioned winners, you couldn’t be blamed for assuming most of the votes in this instance were cast by Brits.
Talking of Brits, Stephen Frears took to the stage next, and following an apology for coming from the UK, he then presented the European Discovery award to a film from that very nation, as Lady Macbeth won (which we were rather pleased about, it has to be said). Then came the very final award of the evening, to Best European Film. Stellan Skarsgard presented the award, and it turned into an all Swedish affair, as following on from the theme of the evening, The Square won this prestigious accolade.
And then after the auditorium emptied, we head to the after-party, and the rest, as they say, is history. Remind me why we want to leave the EU again?
For a full list of this year’s EFA winners, click here.