Happy to be European!
Following its new 2-year-rhythm which brings the European Film Awards to a different European capital every second year, this year's ceremony returned to Berlin, seat of the European Film Academy. Outside the Schillertheater film fans were welcoming nominees and winners at the red carpet and hunting for autographs from the likes of Irène Jacob, Anna Galiena, Antonio Banderas, Ray Fiennes, Roman Polanski, and Penelope Cruz. Inside, the 1,000 guests were welcomed by the evening's hosts, English comedian Mel Smith and French actress Carole Bouquet who already moderated last year's European Film Awards. As they pointed out in the beginning, this year's event was broadcast live across most of Europe and the US or, as Smith put it, "we're live, and we're terrified".
The first award was presented by German actress Heike Makatsch and her British colleague Tom Hollander. They announced the winner of the award European Actress 1999, Cecilia Roth from Spain for her role in Pedro Almodóvar's ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER. The actress came on stage after hugging the director and thanked the Academy, her co-actresses, and the public "in so many countries who has laughed and cried with us". Next to present the award European Short Film 1999, endowed with EUR 10,000, were Paul Oneile of United International Pictures and Spanish actress Emma Suárez. The award went to WELCOME TO SAN SALVARIO by Enrico Verra who thanked his producer and crew in French.
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the honorary awards European Achievement in World Cinema 1999 to Polish director Roman Polanski and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas. Presented by Swiss actress Irène Jacob and her German colleague Isabella Parkinson, Polanski said "I'm really delighted!" Banderas, who received the award from French actress Emmanuelle Seigner and her British colleague Olivia Williams, expressed his gratitude and thanked his wife Melanie Griffith saying: "You are the star of my first movie and you will always be the star of my life!"
After a collection of trailers for films to be released in the year 2000, Czech TV presenter Marek Eben announced that the European Critic’s Award 1999 – Prix Fipresci goes to FAREWELL HOME SWEET HOME by Otar Iosseliani. The Paris-based director from Georgia spoke in French and said he was flattered but also stated, to the audience's applause, that he was a little sad that the evening was held in English since it was "in Europe where we speak many different languages."
British actress Natasha Little and her colleague Jorge Sanz from Spain presented the Screen International Award 1999 (for a non-European film) to David Lynch for THE STRAIGHT STORY. The American director said "It's a great honour for all of us" and congratulated European film.
Presenting yet another honorary award were actresses Maria Pitarresi from Italy and Elsa Zylberstein from France: The European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award went to the Italian composer Ennio Morricone who, to standing ovations, expressed his gratitude in Italian with a triple "Grazie".
Ralph Fiennes received the award European Actor 1999 for SUNSHINE from German actress Maria Schrader. He thanked the producer and director of the film in what we can only assume is Hungarian. Szabó was actually next on stage, accepting the award European Screenwriter 1999, together with Israel Horovitz, from the hands of British actress Brenda Blethyn.
A final highlight came with the presentation of the award European Film 1999 to ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER which had already received European Actress and the People's Choice Award for Best European Director. Announced by Melanie Griffith and presented by Antonio Banderas - on his knees, Pedro Almodóvar was visibly touched. In a mixture of Spanish and English he exclaimed, "this is the specific reason to be happy to be European. We are different and that means richness! ... thank you for this!"
Other awards presented throughout the evening included the People’s Choice Awards for Sean Connery (Best European Actor) and Catherine Zeta Jones (Best European Actress), both for ENTRAPMENT, the European Discovery 1999 – Fassbinder Award for Tim Roth (UK), for THE WAR ZONE, the European Documentary Award – Prix Arte for BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB by Wim Wenders, and the award European Cinematographer 1999 for Hungarian cinematographer Lajos Koltai for THE LEGEND OF 1900 and SUNSHINE.