Five years after Ida swept the European Film Awards, winning five, the European Film Academy has nominated Pawel Pawlikowski’s long-awaited follow-up, Cold War, for five more. But that doesn’t necessarily make Cold War the clear front-runner. Three other films—Ali Abbasi’s Border, Matteo Garrone’s Dogman, and Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro—have scored four EFA nominations each, and Lukas Dhont’s Girl, the fifth film to be nominated this year for the top prize, European Film, has three. Note that all five films premiered in Cannes, where Pawlikowski won the award for best director. The EFA nominations were announced on Saturday in Seville, where the awards will be presented on December 15. This weekend also saw the presentations of the third annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards and the prizes that have wrapped this year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
Originally founded as the European Cinema Society by its first president, none other than Ingmar Bergman, along with forty other filmmakers, the European Film Academy presented its first awards in 1988. In 1996, Wim Wenders succeeded Bergman and still oversees the EFA, now alongside chairwoman Agnieszka Holland.
Like Holland, Pawlikowski was born and raised in Warsaw, though he’s been living and working in the UK since the late 1970s. With Ida, which won an Oscar for best foreign film, and Cold War, also shot in crisp black and white, Pawlikowski has explored his own personal history by delving into Poland’s past. Ida, set in 1962, tells the story of a woman on the verge of taking her vows as Catholic nun when she discovers that her parents were Jewish. It wasn’t until he was in his late teens that Pawlikowski discovered that his Jewish grandmother had died in Auschwitz. In 2015, Pawlikowski told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that Ida is “an attempt to recover the Poland of my childhood.” The lovers in Cold War, which begins in 1949 and sweeps through fifteen years within ninety minutes, bear the names of his parents, a doctor and a ballerina.
Richard Billingham draws on his own past as well in Ray & Liz, which has won the Golden Alexander, the top prize in Thessaloniki. “Largely retelling his own troubled childhood spent in Birmingham during the Thatcher era, the celebrated photographer and artist’s debut feature is by turns brutal, tender and bleakly funny,” writes James Lattimer for Sight & Sound. “This is an off-kilter, obliquely topical portrait of how grinding poverty begets dysfunction.” German filmmaker Eva Trobisch has won the Silver Alexander for her first feature, All Good, and Thai cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng scores the Bronze Alexander for best direction for his directorial debut, Manta Ray.
To return briefly to the theme of childhood, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Morgan Neville’s film about Fred Rogers, the beloved creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, has taken not only the top prize at Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards but also awards for best direction and editing. Neville, who won an Oscar and a Grammy for 20 Feet from Stardom (2013), has already made another doc, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, about the making of Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind.
As Alex Barasch reports for Variety, when Robert De Niro presented the Critics’ Choice Lifetime Achievement Award to Michael Moore, the famously outspoken director nabbed the opportunity to read out the full speech he intended to deliver at the 2003 Academy Awards when he won an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine—until he was booed offstage for calling George W. Bush a “fictitious president.” In short, he would have called out to everyone watching at home “to pick up a camera and fight the power.”
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