Grazie a tutto il mondo – Muchissimo gracias!
For their 15th anniversary, the European Film Awards went to Italy for the first time. At Rome's opera house, the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, the 1,600 guests were led through the evening by British comedian Mel Smith and Italian actress Asia Argento, hosts of the ceremony. In front of a giant scaffolding inspired by the launching pad in Fellini's 8 ½, the evening was set off with one of a series of clips of a very animated Roberto Benigni greeting the audience from the snow of Alaska.
Among the many guests arriving on the red carpet were directors Gurinder Chadha, Mike Leigh, Roman Polanski and Francesco Rosi, as well as actresses Elsa Martinelli, Laura Morante and Francesca Neri and actors Javier Bardem, Johnny Haliday, Jeremy Irons, Franco Nero, Markku Peltola and Alan Rickman.
While the European Film Awards are generally voted for by the members of the European Film Academy, the evening started with the People's Choice Award, a prize voted for by the cinema-loving public across Europe. Presented by Italian actor Enrico Lo Verso and his German colleague Katja Flint, the award for best actor went to Javier Camara for TALK TO HER. The actor explained that he was “molto nervoso,” read out an English note, and then expressed his gratitude in both Italian (“Grazie a tutto il mondo”) and Spanish ““Gracias a todos”).
Next were British actress Sophia Myles and her Spanish colleague Tristán Ullo presenting the award for best actress to Kate Winslet. She thanked the public by video message stating how she was “extremely flattered”.
The award for European Screenwriter was presented by Scottish actor Dougray Scott and Italian actress Isabella Ferrari and was the first of a spectacular FOUR AWARDS going to Pedro Almodóvar for his latest film TALK TO HER. In the course of the evening, he also received the award for European Director from the hands of English actor Pete Postlethwaite and his Italian counterpart Sandra Ceccarelli, the award for European Film from Italian actress Francesca Neri and her British colleague Jeremy Irons, and the People’s Choice Award for Best Director. The latter was presented by English actress Alice Evans and her Welsh colleague Ioan Griffith and the Spanish director exclaimed, “without the audience I am really nothing! My heart is with all of them, thank you!”
With their “Bonsoir” and “Guten Abend” greetings, French actress Ariane Ascaride and German actor Barnaby Metschurat brought two more languages to the stage as they presented the Critic's Award to Ken Loach for SWEET SIXTEEN. In his dry humour, the British director said, “Usually when you get good notices for one film, you get really bad notices the next time”, so he thanked the critics and asked them: “Please forget that you gave it to us!”
Presenting the first honorary award of the evening were Italian actress Stefania Sandrelli and her German colleague Moritz Bleibtreu. They presented the award European Achievement in World Cinema to Victoria Abril. The Spanish actress expressed her gratitude towards the audience and her colleagues in an emotional and multilingual speech.
Next were British actress Patsy Kensit and actor Raul Bova from Italy presenting the award European Cinematographer to Pawel Edelman for THE PIANIST. The Polish cinematographer said it was “a great honour to be here in Rome, Italy, the place where so many great cinematographers were born”.
Two actresses were next on stage - Thekla Reuten from the Netherlands and Alexandra Maria Lara from Germany. They presented the European Documentary – Prix ARTE to ETRE ET AVOIR by Nicolas Philibert who said “Je suis très touché” and took a snapshot of the audience.
Indian actress Masumeh Makhija and Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija then presented the Screen International Award for a non-European film to Elia Suleiman for DIVINE INTERVENTION. The Palestinian director thanked the European Film Awards “for taking for granted Palestine as a country and for giving it a cultural entity.”
Presenting the short film award were Richard Borg of UIP Italy and actress Leonor Watling. The award, sponsored by UIP and endowed with EUR 10,000, went to Ahmed Imamovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina for his short film 10 MINUTES.
European Commission member Viviane Reding and Danish actress Paprika Steen then came on stage and presented the award for a first feature: the European Discovery – Fassbinder Award went to György Palfi for HUKKLE. With his native Hungarian, the 27-year-old director added yet another language to a truly European ceremony.
Italian actor Sergio Castellito next received the European Actor award for MOSTLY MARTHA and MY MOTHER'S SMILE from the hands of Spanish acting legend Marisa Paredes.
As a much anticipated highlight of the evening, EFA President Wim Wenders and legendary actress Jeanne Moreau came onstage, presenting this year's Lifetime Achievement Award to Tonino Guerra for his screenwriting achievements in a career that started in the 1930s and spanned over Antonioni, Fellini, Angelopoulos – to name but a few. To standing ovations, the Italian exclaimed “Spasiba” (thank you in Russian) before he indulged into an extremely passionate and extremely Italian 10-minute speech about the importance of language.
Closing the ceremony to the sounds of Nino Rota’s theme song to 8 1/2, all winners and presenters came on stage for a final photograph as the hosts announced: “See you next year in Berlin!”