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Omissions cloud Euro awards

No award ceremony is perfectly logical. But some make perfect sense anyway, whereas others, to their detriment, take a bit more explaining.

The European Film Awards fall into the second category. The usual head-scratching followed last week’s nominations, which were heavy with Cannes and Berlin prizewinners such as “Volver,” “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and “The Road to Guantanamo” but notable for the absence of several high-profile Oscar hopefuls, including “The Queen,” “Black Book” and “Perfume.”

But those movies weren’t rejected by the voters of the European Film Academy — they weren’t even considered, since none were completed by the July 1 deadline.

But to the naked eye, and particularly across the Atlantic, it looks as though these movies have somehow failed to win home support just as they are trying to build up momentum for a big push into the Stateside award season.

“Black Book” producer San Fu Maltha reports he fielded dozens of queries about why his film had been “snubbed.”

To add to the confusion, in previous years films like these, which either launched at Venice or bowed at the Euro box office in early September, have managed to squeeze into the EFA nominations.

That’s because the board of the European Film Academy board reserves the right to insert late arrivals into the list of nominees, on the grounds that its far-flung members did not have enough chance to see and judge them by the voting deadline.

“The awards are mature enough now for the board not to have to add so many discretionary titles,” says Nik Powell, the academy’s deputy chair.

Powell has spearheaded the reform of the EFAs into a more audience-oriented event since its disastrous early days as an orgy of self-congratulation. But the ceremony, which takes place Dec. 2 this year in Warsaw, still has a reputation as one of the more purgatorial evenings in the calendar.

With its lengthy speeches in several languages, it has always been an uneasy compromise between the different factions of the Euro film biz, with their divergent views about the purpose of cinema, and what constitutes an entertaining night out.

“As I always tell everyone, the European Film Awards at the end of the day reflect Europe and reflect the problems and challenges of European integration,” Powell explains.

“There have been some tough ceremonies, but they are better financed now. They are filmmaker-oriented rather than star-oriented, but with a decent dollop of glamour.”

With the ceremony timed to influence voters in other races leading up to the Oscars, the exclusion of many plausible Oscar contenders from this year’s EFA noms is all the more regrettable.

“It’s unfortunate that’s the way the chips have fallen,” he admits. “But it only happens very occasionally.”

The problem is that few casual observers will have the patience for such explanations. The European Film Awards will work best when they no longer need footnotes.

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