Culture Clash Issues Dominate European Film Awards + Pedro Almodóvar Big Loser

culture clash Head-On Birol Ünel Sibel Kekilli: European Best Film winner + loserCulture clash German-Turkish drama Head-On with Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli. Directed by Fatih Akin, Head-On was the 2004 European Film Awards' Best Film winner – and a loser in all other European Film Academy categories for which it had been nominated. (In the non-official categories, the culture clash drama did win the Jameson People's Choice Award for Best Director.)

Fatih Akin's German-Turkish culture clash drama 'Head-On' tops European Film Awards

Head-On / Gegen die Wand (literally, “Against the Wall”), screenwriter-director Fatih Akin's German-Turkish culture clash drama, was selected as the year's Best European Film at the 2004 European Film Awards ceremony held on Dec. 11 in Barcelona. (Scroll down for the full list of European Film Award winners and nominees & images from the ceremony.)

Head-On tells the story of a young Turkish-German woman (Sibel Kekilli) who marries an older Turkish man (Birol Ünel) so as to 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, namely: Best European Director, Best European Actor (Ünel), Best European Actress (Kekilli), and Best European 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 fared well at the European Film Awards: Javier Bardem was the year's Best European Actor for his performance as a tetraplegic fighting for the right to die – in a culture that condemns euthanasia – in Alejandro Amenábar's Spanish drama The Sea Inside / Mar adentro, which also earned Amenábar the Best European Director Award.

Vera Drake, Mike Leigh's British drama about the travails of a part-time (illegal) abortionist in 1950s England, earned Imelda Staunton the Best European Actress Award.

A few months ago, Vera Drake, Staunton, and Bardem also received top honors at the 2004 Venice Film Festival.

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, 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 was the Best Non-European Film. In the all-star cast: Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Gong Li, Faye Wong, Maggie Cheung, and Carina Lau.

More European Film Award winners

Below are a few more 2004 European Film Award winners.

  • Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri were handed the Best European Screenwriter Award for director Jaoui's Look at Me / Comme une image.
  • Eduardo Serra was the Best European Cinematographer for Peter Webber's 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 The Chorus / Les Choristes.
  • Hubert Sauper's Darwin's Nightmare, about the environmental and social catastrophe caused by the European-targeting fishing industry in the vicinity of Tanzania's Lake Victoria, was selected as the Best European Documentary.

Penélope Cruz celebration

“It's important that we celebrate what is being done in film over here,” said Penélope Cruz, winner of the Jameson People's Choice Best Actress Award for her role as a destitute woman having an affair with a physician in actor-director-screenwriter Sergio Castellitto's Italian drama Don't Move / Non ti muovere.

Cruz's fellow Audience Award winners were Best Actor Daniel Brühl for Love in Thoughts and Best Director Fatih Akin for Head-On.

Pedro Almodóvar and 'Bad Education': Biggest losers

Considering 2004 European Film Award winners Javier Bardem, Alejandro Amenábar, Carlos Saura, and Penélope Cruz, Spanish movie talent succeeded remarkably well at the Barcelona-set ceremony.

Paradoxically, the evening's biggest loser was another Spanish film personality: Pedro Almodóvar, whose gay-themed, outstandingly 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 dramatic comedy stars Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez as two men caught between the present and their traumatic past.

Liv Ullmann: Ingmar Bergman veteran + World Cinema winner gets longest standing ovationLiv Ullmann was the European Achievement in World Cinema Award 2004 winner. The star of Ingmar Bergman's Persona, Cries & Whispers, and Face to Face, and Jan Troell's The Emigrants and The New Land, received the longest standing ovation at the European Film Awards ceremony held in Barcelona.

2004 European Film Awards winners and nominees

Excepting the Jameson People's Choice Awards, the 2004 European Film Award winners were selected by members of the European Film Academy, whose current president is German director Wim Wenders (The American Friend, Wings of Desire).

The Academy is composed of approximately 1,600 film industry professionals from all over Europe.

See further below images from the European Film Awards ceremony.

European Film Awards: Winners and nominations

Best European Film

A Hole in My Heart / Ett Hål I Mitt Hjärta, Sweden / Denmark.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson.

* Head-On / Gegen die Wand, Germany.
Directed by Fatih Akin.

Bad Education / La mala educación, Spain.
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar.

The Chorus / Les Choristes, France / Switzerland.
Directed by Christophe Barratier.

The Sea Inside / Mar Adentro, Spain / France / Italy.
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar.

Vera Drake, UK / France.
Directed by Mike Leigh.

Best European Director
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 / Comme une image.

Best European Actress
Sarah Adler, Notre Musique.
Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, 5 x 2.
Penélope Cruz, Don't Move / Non Ti Muovere.
Sibel Kekilli, Head-On.
Asi Levi, Avanim.
* Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Best European Actor
* 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.

Best European Screenwriter
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.

Best European Cinematographer
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.

Best European Composer
* 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.

Best European Film Academy Discovery - Prix Fassbinder
A Common Thread / Brodeuses, Eléonore Faucher / France.
* Stolen Childhood / A Children's Story / Certi bambini, Andrea & Antonio Frazzi / Italy.
Kroko, Sylke Enders / Germany.
Mon Trésor / Or, Keren Yedaya / Israel.
A Wonderful Night in Split / Ta Divna Splitska Noc, Arsen Anton Ostojic / Croatia.
Harvest Time / Vremya Zhatvy, Marina Razbezhkina / Russia.

Best European Film Academy Documentary - Prix Arte
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Nick Broomfield & Joan Churchill / UK.
* Darwin's Nightmare, Hubert Sauper / Austria / France / Belgium.
Addicted to Acting / Die Spielwütigen, Andres Veiel / Germany.
Basque Ball, Skin Against Stone / La Pelota Vasca, La Piel contra la Piedra, Julio Medem / Spain.
The World According to Bush / Le monde selon Bush, William Karel / France.
Checkpoint / Mahssomim, Yoav Shamir / Israel.
The Last Victory, John Appel / The Netherlands.
Touch the Sound, Thomas Riedelsheimer / Germany / UK / Finland.

Best European Film Academy Short Film - Prix UIP
* Prix UIP Ghent: I'll Wait for the Next One / J'attendrai le suivant…, Philippe Orreindy / France.
Prix UIP Valladolid: Les Baisers des autres, Carine Tardieu / France.
Prix UIP Angers: Poveste la scara “C”, Cristian Nemescu / Romania.
Prix UIP Berlin: Un cartus de Kent si un pachet de cafea, Cristi Puiu / Romania.
Prix UIP Tampere: Fender Bender, Daniel Elliott / Estonia.
Prix UIP Cracow: Alt i Alt, Torbjørn Skårild / Norway.
Prix UIP Grimstad: Panique au village: Les voleurs des cartes, Vincent Patar & Stéphane Aubier / Belgium / France.
Prix UIP Vila do Conde: Love Me or Leave Me Alone, Duane Hopkins / UK.
Prix UIP Sarajevo: Ich und das Universum, Hajo Schomerus / Germany.
Prix UIP Edinburgh: La nariz de Cleopatra, Richard Jordan / Spain.
Prix UIP Venezia: Goodbye, Steve Hudson / Germany.
Prix UIP Drama: 7:35 de la mañana, Nacho Vigalondo, Spain.

Best European Film Academy Non-European Film - Prix Screen International
* 2046, Wong Kar-wai (France / China).
3-iron, Kim Ki-duk (Korea / Japan).
The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de Motocicleta, Walter Salles (Argentina / Brazil / Chile / Peru / USA).
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry / USA.
Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore / USA.
Maria Full of Grace, Joshua Marston (USA / Colombia).
Moolaadé, Ousmane Sembene (Burkina Faso / Morocco / Tunisia / Cameroon).
Old Boy, Park Chanwook (Korea / Japan).
House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou / China.

Life Achievement Award: Carlos Saura.

European Achievement in World Cinema: Liv Ullmann.

FIPRESCI Prize: Trilogy - The Weeping Meadow, directed by Theo Angelopoulos.


Jameson People's Choice Awards

Best European Director
* Fatih Akin, Head-On.
Pedro Almodóvar, Bad Education.
Theo Angelopoulos, Trilogy - The Weeping Meadow.
Bernardo Bertolucci, The Dreamers.
Julie Bertucelli, Since Otar Left.
Iciar Bollain, Take My Eyes.
Richard Curtis, Love Actually.
Patrice Leconte, Confidences trop intimes.
Hilmar Oddsson, Cold Light.
Michael Winterbottom, Code 46.

Best European Actor
* Daniel Brühl, Love in Thoughts.
Sergio Castellitto, Don't Move.
Daniel Craig, The Mother.
Colin Farrell, Intermission.
Colin Firth, Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Hugh Grant, Love Actually.
Thomas Kretschmann, Immortal.
Fele Martínez, Bad Education.
Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson, Cold Light.
Birol Ünel, Head-On.

Best European Actress
Fanny Ardant, Nathalie.
Emmanuelle Béart, Nathalie.
* Penélope Cruz, Don't Move.
Eva Green, The Dreamers.
Isabelle Huppert, Ma Mère.
Laia Marull, Take My Eyes.
Samantha Morton, Code 46.
Charlotte Rampling, Immortal.
Anne Reid, The Mother.
Paz Vega, Carmen.

Alejandro Amenabar: Best Director European Film Awards winnerAlejandro Amenábar: Best Director European Film Award winner for The Sea Inside, starring Best Actor winner Javier Bardem. The Best European Film winner, however, was Fatih Akin's German-Turkish culture clash drama Head-On.

Alejandro Amenábar: European Film Awards' Best Director for 'The Sea Inside'

Alejandro Amenábar was the 2004 Best Director European Film Award winner for the Spanish right-to-die drama The Sea Inside, starring Best European Actor winner Javier Bardem. The European Film Award for Best Picture, however, went to Fatih Akin's widely acclaimed German-Turkish culture clash drama Head-On.

In addition to Javier Bardem as a tetraplegic man fighting for the right to end his life, The Sea Inside features mostly excellent performances by the likes of Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Joan Dalmau, Tamar Novas, and Clara Segura.

Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil co-wrote the screenplay, based on real-life events.

Javier Bardem, it should be noted, has been touted as a potential Best Actor Academy Award contender for his performance in The Sea Inside.

Alejandro Amenábar films

Previous Alejandro Amenábar movies include the following:

  • The horror thriller Tesis (1996), with Ana Torrent, Eduardo Noriega, and Bad Education actor Fele Martínez.
  • The psychological mystery thriller Open Your Eyes / Abre los ojos (1997), with Eduardo Noriega, Fele Martínez, and Penélope Cruz. Open Your Eyes was later 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 Nicole Kidman, and partly inspired by Jack Clayton's The Innocents, which starred Deborah Kerr back in 1961. Adapted by Truman Capote and William Archibald – with additional material by John Mortimer – The Innocents was itself based on Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw.

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, The Others, Open Your Eyes, and Tesis.

There's more: Alejandro Amenábar also created the music for José Luis Cuerda's Butterfly, starring veteran actor Fernando Fernán Gómez; and for frequent Amenábar collaborator Mateo Gil's Nobody Knows Anybody (1999), starring Jordi Mollà, Natalia Verbeke, Paz Vega, and another Amenábar collaborator, Eduardo Noriega.

Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz: Best European Actor + People's Choice Award Best ActressJavier Bardem and Penélope Cruz: European Film Awards ceremony winners. Javier Bardem was the Best European Actor for The Sea Inside; Penélope Cruz won the People's Choice Award for Best Actress for her performance in Sergio Castellitto's Italian romantic drama Don't Move.

Acting winners Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz

Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz were both handed shining elongated statuettes at the 2004 European Film Awards ceremony.

Bardem was the Best European Actor for Alejandro Amenábar's drama The Sea Inside, in which he gets the chance to die “with dignity” on camera.

Penélope Cruz, for her part, won the Jameson People's Choice Award for Best European Actress for her star turn in Sergio Castellitto's Italian romantic drama Don't Move.

Cruz was also a Best Actress European Film Award nominee, but she lost in that particular category to Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake.

Fatih Akin: Director of European Film Awards Best Film + loser in all other categoriesFatih Akin at the European Film Awards (with Alice in the Cities, Paris, Texas, and Wings of Desire filmmaker Wim Wenders standing behind him). Starring Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli, Fatih Akin's culture clash drama Head-On won the European Film Academy's top award.

Fatih Akin's culture clash drama 'Head-On' won one single European Film Award: Best Picture

As mentioned elsewhere in this post, writer-director Fatih Akin's German-Turkish culture clash drama Head-On was the Best European Film winner at the European Film Awards.

That was its sole “official” European Film Academy win; however, Akin did take home the Jameson People's Choice Award for Best European Director. European Film Academy members, for their part, opted for Alejandro Amenábar for The Sea Inside.

Fatih Akin was also a Best European Screenwriter nominee, but he lost to Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri for Jaoui's Look at Me.


European Film Academy 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, Javier Bardem, and Penélope Cruz photos: Alberto Estevez / EFA.

“Culture Clash Issues Dominate European Film Awards + Pedro Almodóvar Big Loser” last updated in February 2018.

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