The European Film Awards seek to showcase the very best of European cinema. Like 2020, this year’s mostly virtual ceremony – with only the nominees present – was beamed live from Berlin.
2021’s competition was especially strong. Established directors and those new to the industry went head to head, and as always there was wide diversity of film genres. Thrillers, comedy and documentaries from across the continent were all awarded – underlining the vitality and richness of European cinema.
Quo Vadis, Aida? takes best picture
The big winner of the evening was Quo Vadis, Aida? by Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić. The film won three awards including the top prize for Best Film and Best Director.
“I would like to thank you women of Srebrenica, who are the strongest voices of peace in Europe today, after such a tragedy in which they lost their sons, husbands, and all the male members of their families, they still advocate for life together.”
The film painfully revisits the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which more than 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims sheltering in a so-called UN “safe area” were slaughtered. The story is seen through the eyes of Aida, a translator. Actress Jasna Đuričić delivers an agonisingly powerful performance.
Elsewhere, the Best Actor award went to Anthony Hopkins for his superb turn in The Father. Florian Zeller’s Oscar winning-movie also took the Best Screenplay Award.
A remarkable refugee story
Flee, by the French-Danish Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, was another big winner. It scooped the Best Documentary and Best Animated Film awards. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of a gay child who flees Afghanistan in the late 1980s. Thirty years later in Denmark, he shares his hidden past with his best friend.
On receiving the award, Rasmussen paid tribute to his friend, known in the film as Amin: “I want to thank Amin, my friend, thank you for trusting, for your generosity and your courage – thank you so much.”
Steve McQueen honoured
For only the second time, the European Film Academy also handed out a European Innovative Storytelling Award. That went to British director Steve McQueen for his five-film anthology, Small Axe, about life in London’s African-Caribbean community between 1969 and 1982.
Upon receiving his award, McQueen dedicated it to the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
“Small Axe is about us, it’s about a community, it’s about coming together, banding together, to make change. And for me this award, I want to dedicate it to the survivors of Grenfell, and the people who fell during the Grenfell tragedy in London a few years back.”
Finally, two other directors were honoured for their contributions to cinema, including Danish director Susanne Bier. She was handed the European Achievement in World Cinema award. The other filmmaker honoured, was pioneering Hungarian director Márta Mészáros. The 90-year-old, whose six decade career encompasses gender-focused documentaries and New Wave films, won a lifetime achievement award.
The Academy have said next year’s event will take place in the city of Lucerne, in Switzerland.