‘Children’ Euro pic of year

Gianni Amelio’s “The Stolen Children” (Italy) got the top honor, European Film of the Year, at the European Film Prize ceremony yesterday at the Babelsberg Studios.

“The Northerners,” a little-known coming-of-age film by Dutch helmer Alex van Warmerdam, was a surprise victor at the ceremonies, picking up three Felixes: Young European Film of the Year and honors for best musical score and production design.

Leos Carax’s “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf” tied with “Northerners” with three Felixes, gleaning best actress honors for Juliette Binoche as well as the top laurels in editing and cinematography.

Also-ran was Finnish helmer Aki Kaurismaki’s “La Vie de Boheme,” which managed best actor and supporting actor prizes. Longtime Kaurismaki topper Matti Pellonpaa spouted a memorized, off-color German poem as an acceptance speech, to the aud’s amusement. The actor had learned his French dialogue for the film by rote.

Recipients of other major prizes included Billy Wilder, who received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Felix. The 86-year-old Wilder was unable to attend the ceremony, but a film showing Jack Lemmon presenting the squirming, grinning, irreverent and mischievous veteran director with the prize elicited a standing ovation. London’s Museum of the Moving Image received an Award of Merit.

A particularly moving presentation was to Lithuanian helmer Audrius Stonys, whose docu, “Earth of the Blind,” got a special DM50,000 ($ 31.6 million) award from pubcaster Arte in addition to the best docu Felix. Award underlined the particular problems of Eastern Bloc filmmakers, and Stonys seemed moved and very grateful.

The Euro Film prize is sponsored by the elite European Film Academy, whose membership consists largely of prominent directors and actors. Chairman Wim Wenders said the objective of this year’s ceremony, whose 1992 budget was as drastically slashed as the guest list, was to be a less Oscar-like extravaganza.

Berlin film producers Alfred Hurmer and Joachim von Vietinghoff, who organized the event, pulled off a better evening than Felix has seen in its five-year history–and not only because more than an hour was shaved off the running time, bringing the ceremony down to a bearable two hours.

Sets were spare, and entertainment was hipper than the usual prize-ceremony fluff, featuring acts such as guitar virtuoso Nigel Kennedy and African singing group Zap Mamas.

Best innovation was several large-format screens ringing the studio used to great advantage for film (not video) presentations. In addition to the Wilder tribute, Dusan Makavejev prepared a short docu on the jury process, Academy members attempted to define “European Film” in a rapid-fire sequence, and Terry Jones walked the audience though MOMI.

Best of all were filmed “postcards” from current locations of EFA members’ pix. Greetings were sent in by Manuel Olveras, Richard Attenborough, Otto Sander , Bernardo Bertolucci and David Puttnam, whose Scottish highland “postcard” to aud was interrupted by a manic Robin Williams popping into the frame yelling “Hi , Wim,” in a brogue that brought down the house.

A number of EFA-sponsored events studded the Felix weekend here, including a panel discussion on how to make a European B.O. blockbuster. No consensus was reached by panelists John Boorman, Istvan Szabo, Margaret Menegoz, Volker Schlondorff, Jaco von Dormael and Dieter Geissler in the discussion chaired by Berlin film commish Georg Alexander.

A complete list of winners follows.

European film of the year: “The Stolen Children,” Gianni Amelio, Italy.

Young Euro film: “The Northerners,” Alex van Warmerdam, Holland.

Actor: Matti Pellonpaa, “La Vie de Boheme,” Finland.

Actress: Juliette Binoche, “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf,” France.

Supporting actor: Andre Wilms, “La Vie de Boheme,” Finland.

Supporting actress: Ghita Norby, “Freud Flyttar Hemifran,” Sweden.

Screenplay: Istvan Szabo, “Sweet Emma, Dear Bobe,” Hungary.

Cinematography: Jean-Yves Escoffier, “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf,” France.

Editing: Nelly Quettier, “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf,” France.

Score: Vincent van Warmerdam, “The Northerners,” Holland.

Production design: Rikke Jelier, “The Northerners,” Holland.

Documentary: “Earth of the Blind,” Audrius Stonys, Lithuania.

Lifetime achievement: Billy Wilder.

Award of merit: Museum of the Moving Image, London.

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