EFA Night 2009

The 22nd European Film Awards

"Cinema is the true language of Europe"

The European Film Awards 2010 took place in Bochum, not Berlin, and in an industrial monument, not a gala hall. On Saturday evening, the 1,400 guests at the 22nd European Film Awards were driven up to the lavishly lit former gas power station of Bochum’s steel mills, the Jahrhunderthalle (Century Hall). Nominees and winners arrived at the red carpet to pose and parade for the assembled photographers and TV stations from across Europe.

The actual ceremony, hosted by German comedienne Anke Engelke, started with a collage of greetings from the 21-year-history of the EFA. Created by BAUHOUSE, a pioneer group of audiovisual composition, the clip mixed the welcomes of the different hosts and presenters resulting in a staccato of various of the many European languages.

As a kick-off for the evening, Anke Engelke presented the People’s Choice Award on an elegant high-tech set of screens and monitors designed by Jürgen Schmidt-André. The People's Choice Award is voted for by film fans across Europe and supported by a network of media partners. The prize went to SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE by Danny Boyle who commented afterwards that it was “an amazing year, beyond our imagination!”

Next on stage were Spanish actress Mará Valverde and her Swiss colleague Anatole Taubman presenting the screenwriter award to Michael Haneke for THE WHITE RIBBON. This was not the last time the Austrian director came on stage as he received also European Film and Director 2009. The two actors then presented the Carlo di Palma Cinematographer Award to Anthony Dod Mantle for DOGVILLE and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. The cinematographer sent a video greeting from India and Danny Boyle came back on stage to accept the award on his behalf.

Documentary filmmaker Nino Kirtadzé (France/Georgia) and Danish actor Jesper Christensen were next, presenting British filmmaker Peter Strickland with the European Discovery Award 2009 for KATALIN VARGA.

One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the honorary award European Achievement in World Cinema to Isabelle Huppert. German director and EFA Board Member Volker Schlöndorff held a speech honouring her contribution to the world of cinema. In her acceptance speech, the French actress wondered if she should speak in French or “in European”, suggesting that maybe cinema “is the true language of Europe”.

Another occasion for standing ovations was the critics' award presented by actress Krystyna Janda to Polish veteran filmmaker Andrzej Wajda. Speaking in Polish he added yet another facet to the multi-lingual and truly European evening: English, German, French and Polish left some of the 1,400 guests a little lost but was also a reminder of the cultural diversity of the continent.

Also announced before, the documentary award to Peter Liechti’s THE SOUND OF INSECTS was presented by ARTE President Dr. Gottfried Langenstein.

Arguably the happiest recipient of an award was Tahar Rahim, lead actor of Jacques Audiard's prison drama A PROPHET who beamed happily for hours afterwards, always glued to his mobile phone in endless conversations exclaiming, “Man, I won!”. The award was presented by Branko Djuric, director/actor (Bosnia & Herzegovina), and Italian actress Caterina Murino. They also announced Kate Winslet in THE READER as the winner of the European Actress award.

Spanish actress Victoria Abril took the audience by storm when she presented Diana Elbaum and Jani Thiltges with the European Co-production Award – Prix Eurimages.

Another Polish winner followed with Marcel Lozinski who received the EFA Short Film 2009 for POSTE RESTANTE. On stage to present the award was Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie, EFP’s Shooting Star 2004 who is known for having written, directed and acted in UNO.

This year’s Prix d’Excellence, presented by Johanna ter Steege & Maciej Stuhr, went to Brigitte Taillandier, Francis Wargnier, Jean-Paul Hurier & Marc Doisne for the sound design of A PROPHET. The Dutch actress and her Polish colleague also presented a delighted Alberto Iglesias with European Composer 2009 for BROKEN EMBRACES.

A real surprise awaited the guests when Polish actor Maciej Stuhr entered the stage looking for hostess Anke Engelke who, as transmitted from backstage, was busy in a match of table football with not just anyone: Nobody less than football legend Eric Cantona came on stage to present Ken Loach with the EFA's Lifetime Achievement Award.

German actor Detlev Buck came on stage to present the first ever award for an animated film to French director Jacques-Rémy Girerd for MIA AND THE MIGOO and the final award, European Film 2009, was announced by EFA President Wim Wenders and EU Commissioner Viviane Reding. With a total of three awards, Michael Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON was the success of the 22nd Euroepan Film Awards. The 2010 edition will take place in Tallinn, again as the pre-opener for a European Capital of Culture year.