On Saturday 10 December our Podcasters Jake and Sam braved the cold in Wroclaw to cover the 29th European Film Awards. The Polish European Capital of Culture 2016 welcomed the nominees for a special awards ceremony, which was live streamed exclusively and free on Curzon Home Cinema, sponsors of the People's Choice Award. 

The most wonderful/dreaded time of the year for cinephiles with a penchant for lists in Wroclaw, Poland

The end of the year marks a daunting time for all cinephiles; having to arrange your favourite films of the year in to a nice, compact, non-descriptive list. Almost as tedious is the debate that appears in each conversation where these lists come up - where the year in film begins and ends: “I saw it at a film festival, but it’s not out yet”, “I count by the Oscar year”, “That just feels like a 2015 film, y’know” - a touchy subject.

It should be simpler at the European Film Awards, as they come at the end of the calendar year, so that gives a definitive 12 months to pick films from. Naturally though, that’s not the case, the European Film Awards can feel like a defining full stop for the journeys of some competing pictures, and for others it feels like the beginning, or a stepping stone on the road to other celebrations. Films like Lenny Abrahamson’s Room premiered at Telluride in September 2015, Brie Larson won an Oscar for her performance in February 2016, and at the EFA’s, Room, a British, Canadian and Irish co-production finds itself nominated for European Feature Film. Italian director Gianfranco Rosi (a special guest on the Curzon Film Podcast back in June) has been tirelessly travelling the world with his Berlinale Golden Bear-winning Fire at Sea for almost a year, before taking a brief rest to watch it compete for the European Documentary award. Also decorated with nominations are Paul Verhoeven’s Elle and Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann - both of which will be finding homes on UK screens in 2017, after being elsewhere in Europe earlier this year. A year is a long time in cinema and the invention of award ceremonies have made them even longer. 

The market square in Wroclaw - photo by Jake Cunningham

This year, the EFAs travelled to Wroclaw, Poland, to cap off the city’s year as European Capital of Culture. At a time when European relations seem so turbulent, this city and these awards felt like a moment's reprise. Bombed heavily during World War II, the medieval market square at the heart of the old city was pristinely reconstructed. As the city sprawls away, the post-war brutalist apartments don’t appear as shadows of the history they stand on, but part of a collective hybrid; there’s a harmony between these clashing buildings that makes walking around the city - or to and from the Press Office - a compellingly distracting commute. The awards themselves are held at the National Forum of Music, a unique building that looks like an 18th century vessel preparing for cubist waters; it’s a stunning structure that’s completely at home amongst the medieval townhouses surrounding it.

Wroclaw's National Forum of Music, the futuristic setting of the European Film Awards ceremony - photo by Jake Cunningham

The city perfectly balances the old and the new, celebrating them both. So it seems right that the directors nominated for EFAs are a team of the old guard, and perhaps, the new. Ken Loach and Pedro Almodóvar are nominated for films that are very much their films. I, Daniel Blake’s story of injustice, frustration and dehumanising bureaucracy has resonated across the continent, it wears its heart on its sleeve, and shouts with the voice of Loach. Almodovar’s Julieta, a box office success around Europe, is a return to form and melodramatic tradition for the director. Internationally recognisable, Almodovar has become a staple of European arthouse, and here, the red carpet feels like a walk through the hall of a second home. In contrast, Toni Erdmann directed by Maren Ade, has been the surprise cult hit of the year since its debut at Cannes. An almost three hours long, German comedy-drama is not a film for any director to comfortably slip into, but Ade’s picture has connected with many, and in very serious times, Toni Erdmann reminds us to take ourselves a bit less so. 

An evening punctuated by reminders of Europe’s current divisions, the films competing for awards - some of which gained funding from 5 different countries - are a reminder of collective artists working together to produce something that joins audiences together, across the continent, whether that is to rally with Daniel Blake, to open the flood gates to Julieta or to buy fake teeth, in preparation for 2017 Halloween Costume favourite, Toni Erdmann.

[by Jake Cunningham & Sam Howlett]

Read the full list of winners here or listen to our podcast for the awards round-up below.


LISTEN TO THIS SPECIAL PODCAST EPISODE

CATCH UP WITH NOMINEES AND WINNERS

To hear our round-up of the European Film Awards, the nominations and winners, listen to this special EFA edition of the Curzon Film Podcast - featuring an interview with I, Daniel Blake screenwriter, Paul Laverty 

To celebrate the 29th EFAs, Curzon Home Cinema have curated a European Film Awards collection, which features a selection of nominated films from the 2016 ceremony, and highlights from acclaimed award winners from 2015 and 2014.