Ken Loach wins lifetime achievement honour at European film awards
Grit, not glamour, proved the order of the day at the 22nd annual European film awards, which took place inside a former power station in Germany's industrial heartland, and handed a lifetime achievement award to the director Ken Loach.
The leading light of social-realist British cinema seemed to relish his trip to the Ruhr region, a landscape dominated by smokestacks and coal-mines. "It reminds me that we used to have an industrial heartland in my country too," he enthused. "Until Margaret Thatcher stuck a dagger through it."
Loach, 73, was honoured for a body of work that includes Kes, Riff-Raff, Land and Freedom and The Wind That Shakes the Barley. He received the award from Eric Cantona, the star of his latest film, Looking For Eric. The former footballer hailed Loach as "a genius" and added: "For five decades he has not stopped tackling social issues, and always with realism, humour, love and modesty."
On stage, the director paid tribute to the culture of European cinema, which continues to be squeezed out of cinemas by the Hollywood monopoly. "The sad fact is that most of the films we are celebrating tonight won't be seen in large areas of Europe," he said
The night's big winner was The White Ribbon by the Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke, which took three awards, including best picture and best director. Accepting the statues, Haneke claimed his film was "a truly European production" in that it was produced and financed by teams from Germany, Austria, France and Italy. Elsewhere, France's Tahar Rahim scooped the best actor prize for his role as a callow Muslim inmate in Jacques Audiard's acclaimed prison saga Un Prophete.
It was a good night for British talent too. Danny Boyle's Oscar-laden Slumdog Millionaire took the peoples' choice statue, while director Peter Strickland won the discovery award for his Transylvania-set thriller Katalin Varga. Kate Winslet was named best actress for her Oscar-winning role in The Reader, although the non-appearance of both Winslet and fellow nominee Penelope Cruz drew some barbs from the event's German host, Anke Engelke. "They are playing invisible women," explained Engelke, pointing to a pair of empty seats. "And if you don't see them, that's your problem."
Happily, the French actor Isabelle Huppert showed up to collect the award for achievement in European cinema.
On stage, Huppert's pronouncement that "cinema is the common language of Europe" helped smooth the feathers of a confused and unruly event. The host tripped over her dress and the presenters tripped over their words and the acceptance speeches arrived in a tumble of English, German, French and Polish.
The Ruhr region of western Germany is known as the nation's engine room, a byword for earthiness and practicality, powered by its coal and steel industries. However, the region may be changing. It was recently selected as the European capital of culture, while two of the EFA's nominated films, The Reader and Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, were partly shot nearby.
Prior to Saturday night's awards, the event's organisers were joined on stage by a troupe of local politicians keen to push the Ruhr's credentials as a solid, dependable film location, free from the tiresome distractions provided by more exotic destinations. "There's no ocean. There's nothing to do," explained one helpfully. As a snappy promotional slogan, it perhaps left something to be desired.Source: Guardian Online