In a revamped formula that concentrated on the diversity of European cinema and treated all ceremony guests as equals, the 16th European Film Awards returned to Berlin and brought the guests to the Arena, a former bus depot at the bank of the Spree river, right where the city used to be divided into East and West.
Based on a script developed by EFA President Wim Wenders and EFA Director Marion Döring, the ceremony took on a Dogma-like style, the map of Europe sketched on the stage and allowing a look “backstage” with all technology visible - cameras, mixing-board, stage director, control monitors, make-up, props, etc. As Wim Wenders said, the aim was to “see the lack of funding as a challenge, turning it into a virtue.”
After a brief on-screen appearance from inside his car, the evening’s host, German actor Heino Ferch, entered the hall directing Lars von Trier’s camper van to the left of the stage.
Seated at tables, the guests included EFA Members, winners, nominees, and presenters… among them the Icelandic actor Tómas Lemarquis, directors Krzysztof Zanussi, Andreas Dresen, and Oskar Roehler, as well as 60 film students from across Europe. Some of these, from Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, London, Paris and Reykjavik, were invited to shoot little clips for the ceremony. The first of these “filmed postcards” came from Iceland, demonstrating the importance of cinema in this film-loving nation.
The ceremony then started with the presentation of the Jameson People’s Choice Awards voted for by cinema-goers across Europe. The awards went to director Wolfgang Becker, actress Katrin Sass, and actor Daniel Brühl, all three of them from GOOD BYE, LENIN! The German director states that, “the award from the audience is always the best award you can get,” adding: “It makes me really proud.”
As a new element the European Film Academy had recruited patrons for the films nominated in the category “European Film”. The first of these, German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, announced the postcard from Budapest - about the art of cinematography – and presented the nomination for MI VIDA SIN MI by Isabel Coixet. Other patrons included British actress and EFA Board Member Brenda Blethyn (for Lars von Trier’s DOGVILLE), Dutch actress Johanna ter Steege (presenting SWIMMING POOL by François Ozon), Hungarian director István Szabó (for GOOD BYE, LENIN! by Wolfgang Becker), and his German colleague Tom Tykwer who presented the nomination for IN THIS WORLD by Michael Winterbottom.
The award European Film Academy Discovery 2003 – Prix Fassbinder, presented in German and English by French director Patrice Chéreau, went to THE RETURN by Andrei Zvyagintsev. The Russian director talked about his taxi driver (in Russian) speculating whether Russia is part of Europe and concluded that the European Film Academy had now answered that question.
To standing ovations legendary French actress Jeanne Moreau came on stage as a patron for the nomination of DIRTY PRETTY THINGS by Stephen Frears. She also announced the winner of the award European Actor 2003, Daniel Brühl for his role in GOOD BYE, LENIN! Overwhelmed, the young German actor exclaimed, “This is too much for me! I’m very honoured and proud” and thanked his film mother Katrin Sass.
The presentation of the next award, European Director 2003 to Lars von Trier for DOGVILLE, brought the camper van at the side of the stage back into the limelight. Icelandic director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson announced the winner and then, among much speculation from a curiously excited audience, knocked on the door of the van and disappeared inside. Lars von Trier appeared onscreen, apparently from within the camper, listening to music on his headphones and acknowledging the award with a mere nod.
A true highlight came with the presentation of the first honorary award of the evening, European Achievement in World Cinema for internationally acclaimed cinematographer Carlo di Palma. The laudatory speech arrived in form of a video of Woody Allen who congratulated his “good friend and one of the greatest cameramen that cinema has ever known”, saying he couldn’t “think of a more deserving cinematographer to be honoured”.
Carlo di Palma whispered “Grazie” and continued to present the award European Cinematographer 2003 to Anthony Dod Mantle for DOGVILLE and 28 DAYS LATER. The Danish cinematographer stated: “to receive this from you, Carlo, is really special,” and added, “I am very moved, thank you!”
The second honorary award, the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, went to veteran French director Claude Chabrol. French actress Isabelle Huppert presented the award reading out a letter: “Claude, je vous aime!...”
Chabrol explained, “it is true that you don’t forget how to ride a bike, but that’s not the case with languages, they disappear” and continued in French, pointing out that “French is a European language and there is nothing extravagant in this”.
Finally, the award European Film 2003 went to GOOD BYE, LENIN! making the German production the winner of the evening. Apart from the three People’s Choice Awards, European Actor and Film, GOOD BYE LENIN! also received European Screenwriter 2003 for Bernd Lichtenberg. Concluding the evening, the German crew was joined by all other winners, patrons and presenters on stage to watch one final filmed postcard, of a sleeping Barcelona, the city hosting next year’s European Film Awards.
Other awards included the European Documentary – Prix ARTE for S21: THE KHMER ROUGE KILLING MACHINE, European Actress for Charlotte Rampling in SWIMMING POOL, the European Film Academy Short Film – Prix UIP for (A) TORZIJA by Stefan Arsenijevic from Slovenia, and the European Film Academy Critics Award 2003 - Prix Fipresci for Marco Bellocchio from Italy for BUONGIORNO, NOTTE. The Prix Screen International for a non-European film went to LES INVASIONS BARBARES by Denys Arcand.