EFA Night 1991


To Russia with Love

After Paris and Glasgow, Felix - the European Film Award - returned to its birthplace Berlin, now a united city, for the 4th European Film Awards. The ceremony took place in the historic DEFA Studios in Potsdam-Babelsberg where Fritz Lang shot his films, Marlene Dietrich and Billy Wilder.

On an impressive set resembling the futuristic skyscrapers of METROPOLIS, the guests were welcomed by the East German TV Ballet Company and hosts of the evening Desirée Nosbusch-Becker and Johannes Willms. As the dancers were swirling across the stage, a welcoming «European Film Awards, 4th time, action!» resounded in German, English, French, Spanish – and Russian (the show was broadcast live in the Soviet Union!).

Films from 24 European countries had been submitted for this year's Felix and a jury of producer Andres Vicente Gomez (Spain), actor/director Terry Jones (UK), cinematographer Bruno de Keyzer (France), and directors Elem Klimov (USSR), Daniele Luchetti (Italy) and Fons Rademakers (the Netherlands), and presided over by German actress Hanna Schygulla, decided on the winners.

The first presenters of the evening were jury member Terry Jones and German actress Marianne Sägebrecht. They announced the Supporting Actor of the Year which went to Ricky Memphis from Italy for his role in ULTRA. The film also received European Film Editor of the Year for Giancarla Simoncelli. There to present the award was Italian director/screenwriter Liliana Cavani who stated that she was pleased to present it to a woman («sono contente che è una donna»).

After German chanteuse Ute Lemper performed a medley dedicated to Marlene Dietrich, the respective award for an actress was presented by Swedish actor Max von Sydow and his Dutch colleague Renée Soutendijk to an overjoyed Marta Keler from Yugoslavia for her performance in VIRDZINA.

Next was a visit from US filmmaker Robert Wise, former president of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who brought friendly greetings from America. Wim Wenders thanked Mr Wise, envisioned how Oscar and Felix would walk hand in hand into the 21st century, and announced that the European Cinema Society had been transformed into the European Film Academy with 57 members from 16 European countries.

This year's Award of Merit was then presented to the Director's Fortnight in Cannes (La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs). Presenting the award was Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos who honoured the Fortnight's director Pierre-Henri Deleau as «un grand réalisateur.»

After a pantomime performance by the Mim-i-Krichi, “theatre of plastic comedy” from Kiev, Polish actress Krystyna Janda and her French colleague Lambert Wilson presented Jaco van Dormael with European Screenwriter of the Year for TOTO THE HERO. The film also received European Cinematographer of the Year for Walter van den Ende, presented by British cinematographer Walther Lasally who surprised everyone by speaking German (he was born in Berlin!), and European Actor of the Year for Michel Bouquet, presented by British actor Ben Kingsley and his Dutch colleague Maruschka Detmers.

(East) German actress Lena Stolze and French director Jean-Jacques Annaud presented European Film Designer of the Year to Kreta Kjnakovic and Valerie Pozzo Di Borgo for DELICATESSEN from France and Helen Schneider & Heinz Benent honoured Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson with a Felix for European Film Composer of the Year for the film CHILDREN OF NATURE from Iceland.

Representing the most successful European feature film ever, Russian star Ludmilla Gurchenko sang the 5-minute song (“Pyat minut”) from KARNAVALNAYA NOCH (Carnival Night) by Eldar Ryazanov. A taste of Eastern European humour finally hit the stage when Russian director Andrei Smirnov and Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski arrived to present Documentary of the Year. After a lot of «Guten Abend! Dobry wieczór! Bon soir! Good evening!», Olbrychski passionately pointed out, «I am here with my Russian friend, I am Polish and we are standing in what used to be East Germany to give an award for something that would have been impossible a few years ago.» The award went to the Polish film HEAR MY CRY by Maciej Janusz Drygas who said that he was, «very happy that after 23 years the people of Europe can hear the cry of my hero.»

Acting stars Glenn Close and Armin Müller-Stahl presented the award Young European Film of the Year. Out of 23 submitted films the jury had nominated TOTO THE HERO from Belgium, DELICATESSEN from France and ULTRA from Italy. And the award went to Jaco van Dormael for TOTO THE HERO.

As a highlight of the entertainment program, legendary singer Shirley Bassey performed a medley of her James Bond theme songs before the award for best female lead was announced by Austrian actress Senta Berger and her Italian colleague Franco Nero. As Nero announced, «attrice europeo dell'anno é Clothilde Coureau.» The young actress received the award for her role in LE PETIT CRIMINEL (France) and, truly overwhelmed, promised, «I'm gonna try to be good!»

This year's Lifetime Achievement Award went to Alexandre Trauner, one of Europe's most influential set designers. There to honour him was German actor Horst Buchholz who talked about shooting Billy Wilder's ONE, TWO, THREE for which Trauner had re-built the Brandenburg Gate. To standing ovations, legendary French director Marcel Carné then presented the award to Trauner's wife.

As the final highlight of the evening, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci presented the Felix for European Film of the Year to RIFF-RAFF. The film's director Ken Loach thanked the jury and, quite overwhelmed, said, «it's a long way from a construction site in London to this!»

As all winners assembled on stage for a final photo call, the hosts said goodbye and announced that the hall will be called “Marlene Dietrich Halle” from tonight on.