Culture clash drama ‘Head-On’ tops European Film Awards + Pedro Almodóvar is EFA’s biggest loser
Screenwriter-director Fatih Akin’s German-Turkish culture clash drama Head-On / Gegen die Wand (literally, “Against the Wall”) was selected as 2004’s Best European Film while Pedro Almodóvar turned out to be the biggest loser at the European Film Awards ceremony held on Dec. 11 in Barcelona. (Scroll down for more on Pedro Almodóvar and for the list of this year’s winners and nominees.)
Head-On tells the story of a young Turkish-German woman and suicide attempt survivor (Sibel Kekilli) who marries another Turkish-German suicide attempt survivor (Birol Ünel) just so she can escape from her strict Muslim family.
Somewhat surprisingly, Akin’s film failed to take home any of the other European Film Awards for which it had been nominated: Best Director, Best Actor (Ünel), Best Actress (Kekilli), and Best Screenwriter.
Earlier this year, Head-On won both the Golden Bear and the International Federation of Film Critics’ FIPRESCI Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.
Additionally, Akin’s culture clash drama has won five Lolas a.k.a. German Film Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Ünel), Best Actress (Kekilli), and Best Cinematography (Rainer Klausmann).
More ‘culture clash’ winners: Javier Bardem & Imelda Staunton
Two other “culture clash” movies also fared well at the European Film Awards.
Javier Bardem was named Best European Actor for his performance as a tetraplegic fighting for the right to die – in a Christian-rooted culture that condemns euthanasia – in Alejandro Amenábar’s Spanish drama The Sea Inside / Mar adentro, which also earned Amenábar the Best European Director award. (More on Alejandro Amenábar below.)
Vera Drake, Mike Leigh’s British drama about the travails of a part-time abortionist in 1950s England, where Christian-rooted cultural forces banned the procedure, earned Imelda Staunton the Best European Actress award.
A few months ago, Vera Drake, Staunton, and Bardem also received top honors at the Venice Film Festival.
Best European Director Alejandro Amenábar
As mentioned above, Alejandro Amenábar was this year’s Best European Director for the Spanish right-to-die drama The Sea Inside – even though the Best European Film winner was Fatih Akin’s culture clash drama Head-On.
How common is this Best Picture/Best Director split at the 17-year-old European Film Awards?
It’s impossible to say. After all, the Best European Director slot was gone from the regular competition roster throughout the 1990s, resurfacing again only in 2001, when both Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his film, Amélie / Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, topped their respective categories.
Two years later, Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye Lenin! was named Best Film, but the Best Director was Lars von Trier for Dogville.
Back to the 2004 European Film Awards: Something worth reiterating is that, at first glance totally disparate releases, The Sea Inside and Head-On actually have a key thematic element in common. Both films center on characters entangled in a culture clash, pitting their need for “radical” systematic change against the needs of those who want things to remain “as they’ve always been.”
Alejandro Amenábar movies
Previous Alejandro Amenábar movies include the following:
- The horror thriller Thesis / Tesis (1996), with Ana Torrent, Eduardo Noriega, and Bad Education co-star Fele Martínez.
- The psychological mystery/sci-fi thriller Open Your Eyes / Abre los ojos (1997), an international hit toplining, once again, Eduardo Noriega and Fele Martínez, plus Penélope Cruz. Open Your Eyes was remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky (2001), with Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, and, once again, Penélope Cruz.
- The horror thriller The Others (2001), starring Tom Cruise’s then wife Nicole Kidman, and partly inspired by Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, which starred Deborah Kerr back in 1961.
In addition to directing, Amenábar also writes/co-writes the screenplays of his films. He has composed music scores as well, including those for The Sea Inside, and the three titles listed above.
Amenábar also created the music for two 1999 releases: José Luis Cuerda’s Butterfly / La lengua de las mariposas, starring veteran actor Fernando Fernán Gómez; and Nobody Knows Anybody / Nadie conoce a nadie, directed by Amenábar’s The Sea Inside co-writer Mateo Gil, and starring Jordi Mollà, Natalia Verbeke, Paz Vega, and another Amenábar collaborator, Eduardo Noriega.
Liv Ullmann gets long standing ovation
Among the other 2004 European Film Award honorees were the following:
- Norwegian actress-director and former Ingmar Bergman muse Liv Ullmann received the European Achievement in World Cinema Award. The star of Persona, The Emigrants, Cries & Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, The New Land, and Face to Face also happened to be greeted by the longest standing ovation of the evening.
- Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura (Cria Cuervos, Blood Wedding, Carmen) was given the European Film Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Wong Kar-Wai’s chronicle of the romantic adventures of a writer, 2046 (China / Hong Kong / France) was the Best Non-European Film. In the all-star cast: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Gong Li, Faye Wong, Maggie Cheung, and Carina Lau.
- Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri were handed the Best European Screenwriter Award for director Jaoui’s French comedy-drama Look at Me / Comme une image.
- The Best European Documentary was Hubert Sauper’s Darwin’s Nightmare, about the environmental and social catastrophe caused by the European-market-oriented fishing industry in the vicinity of Tanzania’s Lake Victoria.
- Eduardo Serra was the Best European Cinematographer for Peter Webber’s British period drama Girl with a Pearl Earring, starring Colin Firth as Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and, in the title role, Scarlett Johansson.
- Bruno Coulais was the Best European Composer for Christophe Barratier’s sentimental, boys-school-set French drama The Chorus / Les Choristes.
Pedro Almodóvar & ‘Bad Education’: Biggest losers
Considering that among the 2004 European Film Award winners and honorees were Javier Bardem, Alejandro Amenábar, Carlos Saura, and (see below) Penélope Cruz, Spanish movie talent succeeded admirably at the Barcelona-set ceremony.
Paradoxically, the evening’s biggest loser was another Spanish film personality: Pedro Almodóvar, whose gay-themed, daringly subversive Bad Education / La Mala educación received seven nominations – including two for the Jameson People’s Choice Awards – but ended up empty-handed.
Almodóvar’s mix of sex, comedy, drama, romance, mystery, and film noir stars Mexican actor Gael García Bernal and Spaniard Fele Martínez as two men caught between the present and their traumatic past. (Dec. 14 update: Bad Education was chosen as the New York Film Critics Circle’s Best Foreign Language Film.)
Penélope Cruz celebration
The 2004 European Film Award winners were selected by members of the European Film Academy, composed of approximately 1,600 film industry professionals from all over Europe. Its current president is German filmmaker Wim Wenders (The American Friend, Wings of Desire).
The Jameson People’s Choice Awards, however, are voted on by the public. This year’s winners were Best Director Fatih Akin for the culture clash drama Head-On, Best Actor Daniel Brühl for Achim von Borries’ psychological “free love” German drama Love in Thoughts / Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken, and Penélope Cruz for actor-director-screenwriter Sergio Castellitto’s Italian drama Don’t Move / Non ti muovere.
“It’s important that we celebrate what is being done in film over here,” opined Cruz, who plays a destitute woman having an affair with a physician in Don’t Move. She should know what she’s talking about, as her Hollywood movies – among them All the Pretty Horses, Blow, and the aforementioned Vanilla Sky – seem to have been not quite worth celebrating.
European Film Awards winners & nominees: Fatih Akin’s culture clash drama tops only one (key) category
A Hole in My Heart / Ett Hål I Mitt Hjärta, Sweden / Denmark.
* Head-On, Germany.
Bad Education, Spain.
The Chorus, France / Switzerland.
The Sea Inside, Spain / France / Italy.
Vera Drake, U.K. / France.
Fatih Akin, Head-On.
Pedro Almodóvar, Bad Education.
* Alejandro Amenábar, The Sea Inside.
Theo Angelopoulos, Trilogy - The Weeping Meadow / Trilogia - To Livadi Pou Dakrizi.
Nimród Antal, Kontroll.
Agnès Jaoui, Look at Me.
Sarah Adler, Notre Musique.
Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, 5 x 2.
Penélope Cruz, Don’t Move.
Sibel Kekilli, Head-On.
Asi Levi, Avanim.
* Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.
* Javier Bardem, The Sea Inside.
Daniel Brühl, The Edukators / Die Fetten Jahre sind Vorbei.
Bruno Ganz, Downfall / Der Untergang.
Gérard Jugnot, The Chorus.
Bogdan Stupka, Our Own / Svoi.
Birol Ünel, Head-On.
Fatih Akin, Head-On.
Pedro Almodóvar, Bad Education.
Alejandro Amenábar & Mateo Gil, The Sea Inside.
Jean-Luc Godard, Notre Musique.
* Agnès Jaoui & Jean-Pierre Bacri, Look at Me.
Paul Laverty, Ae Fond Kiss.
Javier Aguirresarobe, The Sea Inside.
José Luis Alcaine, Bad Education.
Lajos Koltai, Being Julia.
Alwin Kuchler & Marcel Zyskind, Code 46.
* Eduardo Serra, Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Andreas Sinanos, Trilogy - The Weeping Meadow.
* Bruno Coulais, The Chorus.
Alexandre Desplat, Girl with a Pearl Earring.
The Free Association, Code 46.
Alberto Iglesias, Bad Education & Take My Eyes / Te doy mis ojos.
Eleni Karaindrou, Trilogy - The Weeping Meadow.
Stephen Warbeck, The Alzheimer Case / De Zaak Alzheimer.
European Discovery - Prix Fassbinder
A Common Thread / Brodeuses, dir.: Eléonore Faucher (France).
* Stolen Childhood / A Children’s Story / Certi bambini, dir.: Andrea & Antonio Frazzi (Italy).
Kroko, dir.: Sylke Enders (Germany).
Mon Trésor / Or, dir.: Keren Yedaya (Israel).
A Wonderful Night in Split / Ta Divna Splitska Noc, dir.: Arsen Anton Ostojic (Croatia).
Harvest Time / Vremya Zhatvy, dir.: Marina Razbezhkina (Russia).
European Documentary - Prix Arte
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (U.K.).
* Darwin’s Nightmare (Austria / France / Belgium).
Addicted to Acting / Die Spielwütigen (Germany).
Basque Ball, Skin Against Stone / La Pelota Vasca, La Piel contra la Piedra (Spain).
The World According to Bush / Le monde selon Bush (France).
Checkpoint / Mahssomim (Israel).
The Last Victory (The Netherlands).
Touch the Sound: A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie (Germany / U.K. / Finland).
Non-European Film - Prix Screen International
* 2046 (France / China).
3-iron (Korea / Japan).
The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de Motocicleta (Argentina / Brazil / Chile / Peru / U.S.).
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (U.S.).
Fahrenheit 9/11 (U.S.).
Maria Full of Grace (U.S. / Colombia).
Moolaadé (Burkina Faso / Morocco / Tunisia / Cameroon).
Old Boy (Korea / Japan).
House of Flying Daggers (China).
European Short Film - Prix UIP (winner only)
* I’ll Wait for the Next One / J’attendrai le suivant…, Philippe Orreindy (France).
Lifetime Achievement Award: Carlos Saura.
European Achievement in World Cinema: Liv Ullmann.
FIPRESCI Prize: Trilogy - The Weeping Meadow.
Environmentally conscious ‘Western’ ‘Kekexili: Mountain Patrol’ is Golden Horse Awards’ surprise Best Film
From the European Film Awards’ culture clash to the Golden Horse Awards’ … culture clash – by way of their surprise Best Film winner: Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan’s second feature, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol.
Inspired by Peng Hui’s documentary Balance and real-life events that took place in the mid-1990s, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol is set in northwestern Tibet’s remote Kekexili a.k.a. Qinghai Hoh Xil region – “the largest and highest plateau in the world,” according to UNESCO.
The film chronicles the fight between local rangers eager to protect their environment, which happens to be an intrinsic part of the local culture, and greedy poachers intent on killing off the endangered Tibetan antelope because there’s money to be made.
Andy Lau & Yang Kuei-Mei
Hong Kong star Andy Lau took home the Best Actor Golden Horse Award for his performance in the cop drama Infernal Affairs III, while veteran Taiwanese actress Yang Kuei-Mei topped the Best Actress category for her portrayal of a rebellious teenager’s emotionally repressed mother in Lin Cheng-sheng’s 1960s-set melancholy family drama The Moon Also Rises.
Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To was the Best Director for the action thriller Breaking News, starring Richie Jen and Kelly Chen.
Bai Ling was chosen Best Supporting Actress for her work in Dumplings, while Daniel Wu was the Best Supporting Actor for Benny Chan’s Hong Kong action thriller New Police Story.
‘2046’ bypassed in most categories
Nominated for eight Golden Horse Awards, including Best Film (but not Best Director), Won Kar-Wai’s international hit and European Film Award winner 2046 ended up topping only two categories: Best Original Score (Shigeru Umebayashi & Peer Raben) and Best Art Direction (William Chang & Yau Wai Ming). Sounds bad, but that’s two more statuettes than those won by Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education at the European Film Awards.
The Golden Horse Awards are given to films produced in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China (of which Hong Kong is a part, yes). Below is the full list of winners and a partial list of nominees.
Golden Horse Awards
* Kekexili Mountain Patrol.
The Moon Also Rises.
One Nite in Mongkok.
* Johnnie To, Breaking News.
Fruit Chan, Dumplings.
Derek Yee, One Nite in Mongkok.
Lu Chuan, Kekexili Mountain Patrol.
* Andy Lau, Infernal Affairs III.
Jacky Cheung, Golden Chicken 2.
Tony Leung Chiu-wai, 2046.
Duobuji, Kekexili Mountain Patrol.
* Yang Kuei-Mei, The Moon Also Rises.
Ziyi Zhang, 2046.
Sylvia Chang, Rice Rhapsody.
Chuan Wang, Autumn of Blue.
* Daniel Wu, New Police Story.
Eric Kot, A-1 Headline.
Tony Leung Kar-fai, A-1 Headline.
Cheung Siu Fai, Throw Down.
* Bai Ling, Dumplings.
Kate Yeung, 20 30 40.
Lee Sinje, 20 30 40.
Eugenia Yuan, The Eye 2.
New Performer (tie): Tony Yang Yu-Nin, Formula 17 & Hong Hao-Xuan, Bear Hug.
Original Screenplay: Yau Nai Hoi, Yip Tin Shing & Au Kin Yee, Throw Down.
Screenplay Adaptation: Lin Cheng Sheng, The Moon Also Rises.
Documentary: Chronicle of Sea Nan-Fan Ao, Hsiang-Hsiu Lee.
Animation: Mcdull, Prince De La Bun.
Cinematography: Cao Yu, Kekexili / Kekexili Mountain Patrol.
Film Editing: David Richardson, Breaking News.
Original Film Score: Shigeru Umebayashi, Peer Raben, 2046.
Original Film Song: “Floating Water Splendor,” Splendid Float.
Art Direction: William Chang & Yau Wai Ming, 2046.
Make up & Costume Design: Jean Chen & Wei-Joung Lai, Splendid Float.
Visual Effects: Victor Wong & Brian Ho, New Police Story.
Action Choreography: Lee Chung Chi & Jo Stunt Team, New Police Story.
Sound Effects: Cao Yuan-Fong, The Passage.
Short Film: The Magical Washmachine, Lee Yun Chan.
Lifetime Achievement Award: A-Pi Po.
Taiwanese Film of the Year: Splendid Float.
Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year: Chen Bo-Wen for Stone Dream.
European Film Academy website.
Golden Horse Awards website.
Image of Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli in Fatih Akin’s German-Turkish culture clash drama Head-On: PanFilm / Wüste Filmproduktion.
Alejandro Amenábar, Fatih Akin, Penélope Cruz, and Javier Bardem photos: Alberto Estevez / EFA.
Kekexili: Mountain Patrol image: Samuel Goldwyn Films.
“Culture Clash Issues Top European Film Awards + Big Loser Pedro Almodóvar” last updated in May 2019.