Notes on European Film Awards – Malta 2012

‘Let’s never betray the magic of our dreams…’

(Ingmar Bergman European Film Awards 1988)

‘Founded in 1988, the European Film Academy now unites 2,700 European film professionals with the common aim of promoting Europe’s film culture.’ (http://www.europeanfilmacademy.org/) I encourage all filmmakers to join!

(P.S. The cut-down ceremony will be shown on Sky Arts1 Thurs. 6th Dec. 7pm)

This year at Malta was the 25th Anniversary of the European Film Awards. Malta has been the location for many films, including Gladiator, Midnight Express and Munich. I went on a tour, arranged by the Malta Film Commission, of locations and sets, including underwater filming facilities. They are keen to encourage more films to their island, though homegrown films have found it hard to get distribution.

Nik Powell, Deputy Chairman of the EFA and producer of many films, including Mona Lisa, The Crying Game and Ladies in Lavender, and now director of England’s National Film and Television School offered a little story by an Arabian storyteller. A traveller asks an old man, ‘How do I get to the other side?’ The reply comes, ‘You are already on the other side’. I take the moral of this to mean that we should not be striving to change identities, but to celebrate our own. Nik stressed that we Brits are European too, and mentioned, to our shame, the poster at St. Pancras station that offers, ‘Cheap tickets to Europe!’ (Editor Joe Walker sent this message when winning his award, ‘Unlike most Brits, I always wanted to be considered European.’)

Nik also put in a plea for more regard to sound in film, and mentioned an exchange with director Danny Boyle. Nik had said that he thought sound and visuals were 50/50 but Danny said, ‘No. 70/30.’ Nik thought he meant 70% visual but Danny corrected him, ‘No. I meant that sound is 70% of a film!’

I ‘ve always felt that sound is the Cinderella of the film world – undervalued by directors and actors. Not only is original sound best (which is why I hate dubbing and ADR) but there is also the power of sound effects and music. Sadly, though, many audiences don’t accept watching films with subtitles and, in the UK and USA, dubbing is not liked either. And it is for this reason that European films get so little distribution in America, and why there are now so many European films, rightly or wrongly, filming in the English language.

Helen Mirren, speaking to The Guardian after receiving her award said, ‘I think we have the great misfortune in Britain of speaking American. We’re always looking over there to sell our movies. And the brilliance of European film is that they can’t do that because Americans won’t watch movies with subtitles.’

Wim Wenders, the EFA president, opened the awards ceremony at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valetta, by expressing his fears for European cinema:

‘Our 25th awards ceremony is taking place at a crucial time. Europe is in a deep economic crisis and, probably more threatening, in a crisis of identity. We have a lot to offer in that calamity. Film is the best medicine and the ideal language to help rebuild identity. We need a European cinema if we want to build a Europe to believe in. Our common film culture is full of different flavours and colours, and you’ll see that diversity tonight. Our cinema can feed the European soul. It already is its very foundation. Europe is more than its economy, for crying out loud. We can own and convey the European dream.’

The EFA sent crews all over Europe to interview 17 actors and directors. The results were shown in sections throughout the evening, under the heading, ‘Mission Cinema’. At the start of the evening, German comedienne Anke Engelke joked, “This is the 25th European Film Awards, or as they call it in America, The What?” This theme of the possible death of European cinema in the face of the greater distribution and funding of American cinema became a common refrain in these filmed clips. In 2012 more films than ever were made in Europe but less than ever were seen.

Liv Ullman said, ‘It is our duty to protect the movie houses.’ Lord Puttnam remarked, ‘We are healthily pessimistic in Europe.’ Stellan Skarsgård went further, ‘The distribution channels for independent movies have more or less vanished.’ But on the more positive side, came the remark about the state of cinema,

‘It’s just changing and we have to change with it.’

These film makers in ‘Mission Cinema’ felt that European cinema was worth fighting for; that audiences were fed only ‘fast food’ cinema and not given access to challenging material. Agnieszka Holland remarked that we should change their diet! Daniel Brühl said, ‘We feel like a lost society.’ And Lord Puttnam concluded that we were, ‘Fighting for the soul of society in general’.

When Dame Helen Mirren got the award for European Achievement in World Cinema, she spoke movingly of having been a young theatre actress sitting in a little urine-smelling cinema in a small provincial English town, seeing Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura for the first time. (In celebration of Antonioni’s centenary – a restored copy of Il Deserto Rosso had been shown to us EFA members on the previous night.) She said it made her want to be a movie actor and, especially, a European movie actor, like Jeanne Moreau. Which is why she works with European directors whenever she can. (I was on the set of István Szabó’s The Door’ with her last year.) She said, ‘Thank you for recognising I’m a fucking whore too. I’m grateful for it.’ – a description coined by Jeanne Moreau herself, on winning a similar award, to describe the acting profession.

Bernardo Bertolucci, seated in his racing wheelchair, accepted the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and he echoed his debt to all the great European film directors. He especially mentioned ’that beautiful man’, Ingmar Bergman. (He also said movingly, of his daring film career, that he had, killed his father with every film he made…) He concluded his speech, ‘Long life to European cinema’ and, as he was wheeled off, added, ‘Maybe this is the beginning to Untouchable 2!’ (A reference to one of my favourite films of the year. That, A Royal Affair & The Hunt – for which Mads deserved an award!)

In spite of all the challenges ahead I’d like to end on a positive note with Helena Danielsson’s remarks to young producers, as she accepted the European Co-Production Award – Prix Euroimages:

1.    You have to be ‘a tiny bit bonkers.’

2.   Have a  tendency to ignore obstacles.

3.   Never take ‘NO’ for an answer!

EFA Winners:

EUROPEAN DIRECTOR 2012

Michael Haneke for AMOUR

EUROPEAN ACTRESS 2012

Emmanuelle Riva in AMOUR

EUROPEAN ACTOR 2012

Jean-Louis Trintignant in AMOUR

EUROPEAN SCREENWRITER 2012

Tobias Lindholm & Thomas Vinterberg for JAGTEN (The Hunt)

CARLO DI PALMA EUROPEAN CINEMATOGRAPHER AWARD 2012

Sean Bobbitt for SHAME

EUROPEAN EDITOR 2012

Joe Walker for SHAME

EUROPEAN PRODUCTION DESIGNER 2012

Maria Djurkovic for TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

EUROPEAN COMPOSER 2012

Alberto Iglesias for TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

EUROPEAN DISCOVERY 2012   Prix FIPRESCI

KAUWBOY by Boudewijn Koole (The Netherlands)

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY DOCUMENTARY 2012

HIVER NOMADE (Winter Nomads) by Manuel von St¸rler (Switzerland)

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY ANIMATED FEATURE FILM 2012

ALOIS NEBEL by Tom·a LuH·k (Czech Republic / Germany / Slovakia)

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY SHORT FILM 2012

SUPERMAN, SPIDERMAN OR BATMAN by Tudor Giurgiu, Romania

EUROPEAN CO-PRODUCTION AWARD 2012 – Prix EURIMAGES

Helena Danielsson, Sweden

EUROPEAN ACHIEVEMENT IN WORLD CINEMA 2012

Dame Helen Mirren, UK

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy

THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD 2012

HASTA LA VISTA (Come As You Are)

directed by da Geoffrey Enthoven

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About Mel Churcher

I am an acting coach, voice coach, actor and director.