WTO takes lumps at awards; 'Mother' top pic

BERLIN — Demonstrations and stalled talks at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last week seemed to embolden European filmmakers and government officials at the 12th annual European Film Awards, held Saturday in Berlin.

With the message that film is a cultural and artistic heritage — not a simple commodity, an atmosphere of opposition against proponents of free trade — namely U.S. corporations — prevailed.

“We don’t want globalization,” Pedro Almodovar proclaimed from the stage after winning the award for European pic of the year for “All About My Mother.”

Diversity decree

“The strength of European cinema lies in its diversity. We are all different and that is what makes our films special,” he said.

In the same vein, actor Ralph Fiennes, who won actor of the year for his role in the Hungarian epic “Sunshine,” praised writer-director Istvan Szabo and co-writer Israel Horovitz for their courage and vision in an industry dominated by “commercial necessities.”

Opening the ceremony, German Culture Minister Michael Naumann said Europe has the power to protect its cinematic tradition against the onslaught of commercial interests. Naumann previously has said that his goal is to strengthen the diversity of European film and heighten its presence in Euro cinemas.

In a written statement, Jack Lang, former French culture minister and current president of the Commission for Foreign Affairs of the French National Assembly, warned against the WTO’s growing threat to European film.

Org blasted

“Prowling around Europe with sheathed claws, the ultraliberals attempt everywhere they can to burst the bulwarks which have been set up to safeguard creativity,” he said.

Lang specifically attacked the WTO’s practice of urging weaker European countries like Poland and the Czech Republic “to abandon their regulatory measures and encouraging a so-called convergence between audio-visual and telecommunications sectors” and to end government film subsidies.

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