The 28th European Film Awards

February 21, 2016
The 28th European Film Awards

The awards of the European Film Academy, back in its Berlin home again and currently at the Haus der Berliner Festspiel Theatre, was successfully concluded in a simple but varied ceremony that, as always, invited the cream of contemporary European cinema. The President of the Academy, award-winning filmmaker and long-time Berlin resident, Wim Wenders, opened the curtain on the 28th awards ceremony. The host for the evening was the German stand-up comedian and television presenter Thomas Hermanns.

"We all want to help one another … we want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery… in this world there's room for everyone and the good Earth is rich and can provide for everyone … but we have lost the way …" With some successful jokes, and enough simplicity in this relatively small theater the awards began, the launch labeled with a quote from the great humanist Charlie Chaplin as a dictator from The Great Dictator (1940).

Characteristic of the European Film Awards is its political consciousness and this evening drew attention to the labeling and contrasting in regards to all the walls that have risen in European borders against refugees, but also to the rise of the extreme right and absolutism. In light of the current Syrian refugee crisis, particular emphasis was placed on migration issues with an emotional reference to Berlin foreigners with the alien slogan "100 % Berliner". Hermanns also quoted John F. Kennedy’s famous line when he visited Berlin in 1963, "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) which in exact German actually means "I am a (Berliner) doughnut." However, the presenter referred to the contexts in which Kennedy had stressed that those who come to Berlin can claim a life of equality and respect, concluding that "we are all Berliners" and that this value should not be forgotten. The presenter had wandered the streets of Berlin to find dancers from different nationalities and brought them to the end of the stage to dance with them.

Although the awards were a European and multicultural mix, one felt that it was seeking to imitate the American Oscars, partly expected given their nature, but somewhat disappointing one could say, as both European cinema and the European culture has its own characteristics and an abundant wealth of concepts, which authors and culture certainly does not need to follow.

The actors receiving honorary awards this year were Michael Caine and Charlotte Rampling, giving this edition a very British flavor. They were bestowed with Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Academy. "I've never used my no European prize and tonight I got two. The next time I will ask for better pay." It was the words and the emotion of Sir Michael Caine, when he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. The actor received the award with a trembling voice and with great humor. "50 years sitting underneath to applaud others to win, I'm very good at it and now that I got this award, I can tell you that I have no anxiety about whether I will get the best actor award." The audience erupted again when he received the award for Best Actor for the film Youth by Paulo Sorrentino.

A similar scene occurred with the award for Charlotte Rampling, who in grace, comfort and humor received her own Lifetime Achievement award. She said, "I never started to go into this process to be awarded, it was my pursuit of it. And when I heard that you were giving me the award, I did not know whether I would enjoy it. However, because it is for the Life Merit Award and comes from Europe, one continent which has always wanted to work artistically, I am very happy for this accolade." The actress, like Caine, subsequently won the corresponding Award for Best Actor for 45 Years, by Andrew Haigh.

Another honored guest was Christoph Waltz, known as the most famous and delectable "bad guy" of European and American cinema. When he received the European recognition award for World Cinema, he modestly said: "Once I had been asked at what rate I owe my success to luck, and although generally I do not get along with the percentages I knew to the last number on how much I owe my success to chance. It's 100%."

The two stand-out awards of the evening went to Lobster for Best Film of the Year and the Best European Film of the Year was Youth by Paulo Sorrentino, which excelled on the night with three top awards: Best Film, Best Actor for Michael Caine and Best Director for Paolo Sorrentino. The European Award for Best Comedy went to Roy Andersson for A Dove Sat on a Branch Reflecting its Existence. In his acceptance speech, Roy Andersson said "I am very happy to win this award because in my country, Sweden, no one accepts the film as a comedy."

The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos was honored with two awards; the Best Screenplay to Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Philip, and Best Costume to Sarah Blenkinsop, while the short films which were competing found the Greek entry Washingtonia, by Konstantina Kotzamani, come second because the Picnic by Jure Pavlovic ultimately excelled.

Other awards were: the Audience Award for Marshland by Alberto Rodriguez, the Best Animation for the Song of the Sea by Tomm Moore, European Documentary for the successful Amy by Asif Kapadia, the FIPRESCI Prize for Mustang by Deniz Gamze Erguven, Best Cinematography for Goodnight Mommy by Martin Gschlacht, Best Stage Design for The Brand New Testament, Best Editing for Body by Jacek Drosio and Best Sound Design to Vasco Primentel and Miguel Martins for the Portugese trilogy Arabian Nights by Miguel Gomes. The warmth and humor of Vasco Primentel when he received the award was typical: "I thank the Academy for the Best Sound Design in a six-hour work measured with just one blast and thank my wife for not knowing what work I have done for so many years and I am grateful to her for that."

After the awards, a ceremony that lasted more than two hours, there followed a party and buffet in the hotel for guests. Vasco Primentel, winner of the Sound Design for Arabian Nights, commented as he went out for a cigarette: "And now that I do not know what to do, I will give my time to my mother".

Steven Yates
© FIPRESCI 2015