Euro Academy keeps focus on filmmakers

No, says European Film Academy topper Marion Doering emphatically, please do not try to compare the EFA or its annual European Film Awards with the Oscars.

The EFAs feature a ceremony with glitches rather than glitz, with one-liners that sometimes get lost in translation and with presenters or winners sometimes unknown outside their home countries.

But the EFAs’ signature event has nevertheless become an important and increasingly popular showcase for the year’s top European films. And as EFA celebrates its 20th annual ceremony on Dec. 1, it is understandably proud of its growing clout and the fact that its winners often trumpet their EFA awards and nominations in advertising around the world.

Doering stresses that the org will always be filmmaker-oriented rather than star-oriented.

“We’re European and all different. We’re presenting our awards in a multilingual, multicultural continent with a lot of different film cultures and fragmented markets,” Doering says.

She feels it is better to showcase great films at an imperfect event rather than vice-versa.

“If we tried to pretend to be the Oscar ceremony, it would look ridiculous. … I think we need to keep making the little mistakes, stay a little chaotic.”

Founded in 1989, with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman as its first president (a position currently held by Wim Wenders), the EFA is made up of 1,800 European film professionals. Aside from the annual awards ceremony, the EFA also organizes a series of events and conferences during the year.

In odd years, the awards ceremony is held in Berlin — nonprofit EFA’s home city thanks to the multimillion-euro annual support from the federal and city governments — but it goes on the road in even years.

“Nowadays there are always a number of strong candidate cities eager to host the awards,” Doering says. “In the past, there were some years where there was only one city bidding.”

Doering adds the EFA has tried to unite Europe’s disparate film community, yet at the same time celebrate that diversity, and to bring together European filmmakers to create a sense of community.

“It’s a fantastic thing,” X Filme topper Stefan Arndt says. “It’s the only place in the year where we can all meet without worrying about individual interests. I think everyone in Europe ought to be eager to see the Academy become even stronger. If we in Germany can fight to have more French, British and Spanish films screened or on television here, they will do the same for our films.”

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