‘Cold War’ the big winner at European Film Awards

Nora Twomey’s ‘The Breadwinner’ misses out on animated feature gong in Seville

Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski  and his team members pose with all their awards for their film ‘Cold War’ during the 2018 European Film Awards ceremony in Seville. Photograph:  Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images

Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski and his team members pose with all their awards for their film ‘Cold War’ during the 2018 European Film Awards ceremony in Seville. Photograph: Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images

 

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War was the big winner at the 31st European Film Awards in Seville. The beautiful, monochrome drama, detailing a complicated romance between a volatile Polish couple, won five awards including best film best director and, for Joanna Kulig, best actress. The film has been receiving glowing reviews since its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

With its characters moving from Poland to France and on to Yugoslavia in the postwar years, Cold War could hardly be a more suitable winner of a pan-European award. Pawlikowski, who worked for decades in the UK, was full of praise for his fellow nominees.

“They all made these films not for commercial reasons, but because they wanted to tell these stories,” he said. “I am glad to get these awards without any campaigning or any money being spent.”

That last comment can be seen as a gentle dig at the circus that surrounds the Oscars. The European Film Awards are a very different business. This year’s ceremony, at the Teatro de la Maestranza on the banks of the Guadalquivir, featured a jazz band and an apparently functioning bar on stage. At least one of the winners joined the presenters for a public glass after receiving his statuette. There was much promotion of Seville, endless flamenco and – inconceivable at the Oscars – at least three, apparently scripted uses of the f-word from the stage.

Nora Twomey, from Cork, will have been disappointed to lose best animated feature for her highly acclaimed Irish production The Breadwinner. An Oscar nominee earlier this year, the drama sounded as if it was the favourite, but the award went to Raul de la Fuente and Damian Nenow’s Another Day of Life.

Bad lover

The shadow of the UK’s halting efforts to leave the European Union hung over the ceremony. Early on, Rossy de Palma, the Spanish actor known for her work with Pedro Almodóvar, made a cheeky allusion to the ongoing crisis.

“We must be there for each other,” she said. “We need the feedback. I am not going to talk about it. But it rhymes with ‘sexit’. Half of Europe is having a bad day with a lover.”

She then went on to strain the analogy with a suggestion that the supposed lover was having an issue with too-tight underpants.

Spanish actor Rossy de Palma poses for photographers on the red carpet of the European Film Awards at Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, Spain. Photograph: Julio Munoz/EPA
Spanish actor Rossy de Palma poses for photographers on the red carpet of the European Film Awards at Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, Spain. Photograph: Julio Munoz/EPA

Throughout the ceremony, presenters and winners talked about the troubled state of Europe at the moment. But the most explicit treatment of Brexit came from Armando Iannucci, who won best European comedy for his striking satire The Death of Stalin.

“As the first person on this stage from the UK, can I say that I love Europe?” he said. “And this is a European film. I am Scottish and Italian. It was shot mostly in England. We were financed by the French. We did post-production in Belgium. It shows what a great idea it would be if European countries came together with the UK and worked in . . . I’ll call it ‘a European Union’.”

Actor Ralph Fiennes, awarded the achievement in world cinema award, later added his voice to the argument.

“Can I be English and European? Emphatically, yes,” he said. “I have wondered what it is to feel European. Is it a feeling of belonging, of shared history, shared wounds? In England right now, there’s only the noise of division. But with film we can celebrate our differences and our common humanity.”

Fiennes went on to regret the rise of populism and – taking a bit of a swerve – “political correctness”.

Other films receiving honours on the evening included Matteo Garrone’s Dogman, which took best actor for Marcello Fonte, and Lukas Dhont’s Girl, the story of a transgender ballerina, which took the discovery prize.

In 2019, the European Film Awards, which change location every year, will make their way to Berlin. Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, an Irish production currently contending for Oscars, counts as a 2019 release for EFA purposes and is certain to feature prominently.