“Lets never betray the magic of our dreams!”
Towards the end of its year as European Capital of Culture, West Berlin has presented an event of historic dimension: The first ever European Film Awards, a glamorous celebration of cinema bringing together filmmakers from across Europe (East and West), many of whom had never before had the opportunity to meet.
Broadcast in 18 countries in Eastern and Western Europe, the ceremony took place at Berlin's elegant Theater des Westens (Theatre of the West). On occasion of the event, the renowned Italian film composer Giorgio Moroder composed a special jingle which was played by an orchestra under East German composer Günther Fischer to open the ceremony.
Leading through the evening were two German TV stars, Desirée Nosbusch and Jan Niklas, who welcomed the audience to a medley of film melodies and posters from some of the great European master pieces such as BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, METROPOLIS, UN CHIEN ANDALOU, THE BLUE ANGEL, LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS, LA STRADA, WILD STRAWBERRIES, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and many others – setting the atmosphere festive and the expectations high.
For the unique event, 27 European countries submitted the best of the year's film productions to be screened by a jury presided over by French actress Isabelle Huppert. The other members of the jury were director/screenwriter Liliana Cavani (Italy), producer Bernd Eichinger (FRG), actor Ben Kingsley (UK), actor/director Nikita Mikhalkov (USSR), composer Mikis Theodorakis (Greece), and director Krzystof Zanussi (Poland).
The first award of the evening, Best Young Film, was presented by Italian actress Ornella Muti and her French colleague Lambert Wilson. Speaking bits of Italian, German and French, they finally settled for English and announced Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar as the winner for his film WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. The filmmaker came on stage with his brother, the producer of the film, and excitedly exclaimed: “I dedicate this prize to the Spanish people!” Later in the evening, the film also won Carmen Maura an award for Best Actress.
Another newcomer prize, Best Young Actor, was presented by Italian actor Michele Placido and his colleague Marta Keler from Yugoslavia. The prize went to Pelle Hvenegaard, the twelve-year-old Dane who played PELLE THE CONQUEROR, a film which later also won Best Actor for Max von Sydow from Sweden.
As the evening continued, a series of stars arrived on stage to present and accept awards. Among these were director Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy), actors Jürgen Prochnow (FRG), Anthony Hopkins (UK), Fernando Rey (Spain), and their female colleagues Joan Collins and Victoria Tennant (both UK).
Even the entertainment programme was a true European mix, kicking off with Spanish superstar Julio Iglesias. Throughout the evening, other acts would feature flamenco legend Antonio Gades with his ensemble, Nigerian-British singer Sade, Dutch cabaret artist Robert Kreis, and Italian singer Milva.
Presented by German actress Senta Berger and her colleague Rolf Hoppe, Best Supporting Actress went to Johanna ter Steege from the Netherlands for her role in George Sluizer's THE VANISHING. Best Script went to Louis Malle from France for AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS and a Special Aspect Award to the art direction of ASHIK-KERIB from the USSR.
That an awards show can only be scripted to a certain extend was vividly demonstrated with the next award presentation. On stage to announce Best Supporting Actor came Russian actor/director Nikita Mikhalkov and French actress Valérie Kaprisky. The award went to German veteran actor Curt Bois for his role in Wim Wenders' WINGS OF DESIRE. To standing ovations, the 87-year-old mime apologised for bringing his walking stick but pointed out that he had celebrated his stage debut on the very same stage in 1908. With the help of his interpreter, Mikhalkov then brought out a bag full of caviar he presented to Bois who refused to leave the stage, fell to his knees and started to give the surprised audience an impression of the piece he had performed as a seven-year-old – a moment that brought applause even to the press enclosures.
Another true highlight was the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award by Italian actress Giulietta Masina to Marcello Mastroianni. To standing ovations and a visibly touched Mastroianni, she exclaimed: “Bravo, Marcello, bravo!”
The award for Best Director went to Wim Wenders for WINGS OF DESIRE. The German director said that European cinema is „real and Utopian at the same time,“ and called for a European distribution system for European films, „our only common language“.
Dressed in a glittering sequin dress, legendary Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida presented an Award of Merit to Sir Richard Attenborough who stated: “Ladies and gentlemen, as you may have guessed, I’m an Englishman but I’m also very proud to call myself a European!”
The award for Best Film was presented by jury president Isabelle Huppert and jury member Ben Kingsley and went to the Polish production A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING. In yet another touching moment, the director Krzysztof Kieslowski exclaimed: “ I hope that Poland is in Europe too!”
There were also two Special Awards, one went to Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci for THE LAST EMPEROR, the other to Jurij Chanin (USSR) for the music in THE DAYS OF ECLIPSE.
A final highlight awaited the audience when German actress Nastasja Kinski arrived to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Swedish filmmaking icon Ingmar Bergman. To standing ovations on all balconies, he exclaimed: “Let's never abandon the shadows on the screen for all this great electronic stuff! Let's never betray the magic of our dreams! Long live the cinematographic art!”
What a start indeed! After all that glamour it almost went unnoticed when Hungarian director István Szabó came on stage to read out an appeal signed by a group of European filmmakers that calls for a strengthening of European film culture and the foundation of a European Film Academy.