The European Film Awards – Europe’s answer to the Oscars – turned into a gala night for Ruben Östlund’s ‘The Square’, with the art-world satire scampering away with six awards to add to the Palme d’Or it won in Cannes. ‘The Square’ won Best Film and Best Director for the Swedish filmmaker. Lead actor Claes Bang also won Best Actor as the film’s fraught art gallery curator. Hungarian actress Alexandra Borbély won Best Actress for Golden Bear winner ‘On Body and Soul’, and Londoner William Oldroyd took the Discovery prize for ‘Lady Macbeth’.
The great and good of European cinema gathered in Berlin for an emotional evening, with the shadow of politics never too far from anyone’s thoughts – or speeches. Stephen Frears apologised for Brexit, Wim Wenders cited ‘an old monster we thought we had buried, called nationalism’, exhorting his fellow filmmakers to take the fight back to the populists, and there were several impassioned pleas to free Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov from his Russian prison. Fellow artist and ex-political prisoner Ai Weiwei, also in attendance, had a letter read out demanding Sentsov’s release.
There were also Lifetime Achievement awards for Russian director Alexander Sukurov, in recognition of his virtuoso work, not least on the brilliant ‘Russian Ark’ and ‘Mother and Son’, and Julie Delpy, who is currently trying €600,000 to get her next directorial project made.
But the night belonged to Östlund, Bang and co, who continue to sweep all before them with ‘The Square’: surely hot favourite to land a Best Foreign Film Oscar in March. They persuaded a room of European cinema luminaries – Wenders, Agnieszka Holland, Volker Schlöndorff among them – to do a primal scream of celebration, so literally anything is possible.