European Film Awards 2018: A despatch from Seville

Our differences of language, culture, custom and our common humanity. I believe filmmakers are unifiers. Our work is by definition collaborative; it has to be to survive.
— Ralph Fiennes

“What gives me strength to be optimistic? The sun behind you in this beautiful city of Seville” said European Film Academy President and renowned filmmaker Wim Wenders, kicking off the 31st European Film Awards in the sun-drenched Spanish city. On Saturday December 15th, our Podcasters Jake and Sam left a cold London for the unseasonal warmth of Seville to cover the ceremony, which celebrates achievements in European cinema in 2018.

Seville is the perfect fit for the European Film Awards; the cinematic city has been the locations for works as diverse as Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Game of Thrones. With its scenic town squares, picturesque alleyways and orange trees, Seville is as beautiful as Wim Wenders says it is.

Podcast host Sam Howlett on the roof of Seville’s Teatro de Maestranza, the home of the 31st European Film Awards

Podcast host Sam Howlett on the roof of Seville’s Teatro de Maestranza, the home of the 31st European Film Awards

After getting our placement on the red carpet, we watched the stars trickle in: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Borg vs McEnroe’s Sverrir Gudnasson, Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps, and the teams behind Dogman, Girl and Cold War.

We were lucky enough to have a chat with the great Armando Iannucci, who won the award for European Comedy for The Death of Stalin. After representing such a tumultuous period of political history with such aplomb, Iannucci was unsure about more current events having the same treatment, “the Brexit thing is so absurd, no fictional thing can outdo it”.

The Death of Stalin , directed by Armando Iannucci, won the prize for European Comedy

The Death of Stalin, directed by Armando Iannucci, won the prize for European Comedy

Coming straight from the edit of his next film, an ambitious adaptation of Dickens’ David Copperfield, the creator of The Thick of It was glad to be back in continental Europe to celebrate The Death of Stalin a year after its release. “It’s really nice to be here. I said I wanted [The Death of Stalin] to be a European film, it’s got French money, Belgian postproduction, it was shot in the UK, Kiev and Moscow; it’s a European co-production”. In fact, Iannucci seemed to be a fan of European countries working together, like they did on his film. “It’s a good idea that, European countries working together, We should call it, I don’t know, some kind of union…”

Once the stars made their way into the Teatro de Maestranza, the ceremony began. The first award was for European Actor, which went to Marcello Fonte for his sympathetic and complex performance in Matteo Garrone’s Dogman. Fonte, for whom Dogman was a breakout role, was full of energy when accepting the honour. He was so excited that he decided to come back in to the press room to show off his award.

The next award was the Prix FIPRESCI for European Discovery, which went to Lukas Dhont’s Girl. Having picked up the Queer Palm and Camera d’Or at Cannes, along with the Best First Feature prize at this year’s London Film Festival, it’s a great addition to Dhont’s awards cabinet.

Best Actor winner Marcello Fonte in  Dogman

Best Actor winner Marcello Fonte in Dogman

But these were to be the only time anyone from either Dogman or Girl took to the stage, as one film dominated the 31st European Film Awards: Cold War. As with the last two years, where Toni Erdmann and The Square took home the bulk of the prizes, Cold War followed suit. Joanna Kulig took the award for Best Actress, the awards for European Screenwriter and Director went to Paweł Pawlikowski (whose previous film Ida also swept the awards in 2014) and of course, Cold War reigned triumphant in the Best Film category. Already the highest grossing foreign language film in the UK in 2018, Cold War can add a total of five European Film Awards to its list of honours (it had already won Best Editing before the ceremony).

Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot in  Cold War

Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot in Cold War

Outside of the competitive awards, French-Greek director Costa-Gavras received the Special Honorary Award, Spanish actress Carmen Maura (a favourite of Pedro Almodovar) was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award, and the multi-talented Ralph Fiennes was given the award for European Achievement in World Cinema. Fiennes took to the stage to celebrate his acting career as well as his achievements as a director for the films Coriolanus, The Invisible Woman and the upcoming The White Crow. In these troubling times for Europe, Fiennes pointed out that film provided some hope by celebrating “our differences of language, culture, custom and our common humanity. I believe filmmakers are unifiers. Our work is by definition collaborative; it has to be to survive.”

The winners of the evening Cold War, The Death of Stalin and Dogman are available on Curzon Home Cinema, alongside nominees Borg vs McEnroe, In The Fade and The Happy Prince. To hear our round up of all the nominations and awards, listen to our podcast below - or search for The Curzon Film Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Acast, or wherever you get your podcasts.