It is nearly upon us, the BBC Four Cinema Awards 2011 - a ceremony celebrating international cinema.
I've been attending for the last four years, and the evening is a lot of fun. Here's a piece I wrote on it in 2006:
BBC FOUR WORLD CINEMA AWARD 2006
On Thursday 26 January the third annual BBC FOUR World Cinema Award was held at London’s National Film Theatre. This award admirably highlights and celebrates the cream of foreign language films released in the UK between 1 November 2004 and 31 October 2005. The previous winners were The Return and Belleville Rendezvous.
The six nominees were chosen by critics, festival directors and film-school heads from around the country, with the eventual winner decided by this year’s judges: Stephen Woolley (producer and director), Jonathan Romney (critic) and Amanda Donohoe (actress). The judges were filmed earlier in the day deliberating and at the ceremony the audience witnessed some of their ruminations. The nominees were:
House of Flying Daggers
Look at Me
The Sea Inside
The evening was hosted by the always effervescent Jonathan Ross, with the award presented by BAFTA winning director of A Way of Life Amma Asante.
The award ceremony lasted an hour, and consisted of clips from the nominated films, interviews with the film-makers and choice moments from the discussion by the judges (chaired by Ross). The judges were an interesting mix which allowed overlapping perspectives. There seemed to be admiration for the style but confusion over the content of 2046. The Sea Inside was heartily disliked by Romney feeling it was an afternoon TV movie, and Woolley thought the film did not deliver on its supposed promise of sentimental restraint, while Donohoe admitted to weeping during part of the film. House of Flying Daggers seemed to be in the running for the award due to its unparalleled visual spectacle. What was definitely agreed was that Zhang Ziyi (or Ziyi Zhang as it is now written) has had a tremendous year turning in two accomplished and very different performances in two of the nominees. The biting Look at Me was praised by all three judges but was felt by Woolley to lack the impact of a 60s Chabrol or Truffaut. Tropical Malady was admired for its ambition but was thought to be just too weird.
What is probably most interesting about this award is the films that were not nominated. On what grounds were the nominees selected? Should there have been representatives from each continent? Was the final list of nominees limited to one per country?
This reviewer (and the friends he attended with) is puzzled by the selection. There seems to be far superior films that were released over the last year. If the selection panel wanted a crowd pleaser, surely Kung Fu Hustle was a better film than the contrived House of Flying Daggers. German cinema in 2005 delivered the one-two-three punch of Downfall, The Edukators and Head-On. France did the same with A Very Long Engagement, 5X2 and Look at Me. Think about Spanish language too – Maria Full of Grace and Duck Season. What about from Far East Asia – Untold Scandal, rather than the bafflingly pretentious 2046.
Criticism aside, like any awards ceremony everyone is not going to agree on all the nominees and this particular prize has its heart firmly in the right place – the support of foreign language movies in the UK.
The excellent Downfall won the award. The judges commented on the bravery of German film-makers tackling such a horrific subject and the sheer level of detail. It is a ground-breaking movie, which is what cinematic awards should be celebrating – the pushing of the boundaries of what has gone before.
The award was presented to the director Oliver Hirschbiegel, who thanked the British audience for making it a hit and the BBC for promoting world cinema. The talented Hirschbiegel has been rightly snapped up by the Hollywood machine to inject something new into The Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake/reimagining - The Visiting, the new thriller with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig out later this year.
Now back to 2011, here are the nominees:
- OF GODS AND MEN
- THE SKIN I LIVE IN (my review: http://www.filmaluation.com/the-skin-i-live-in.html)
- UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES
- A SEPARATION (my review: http://www.filmaluation.com/a-separation.html)
- LE QUATTRO VOLTE
Who do you think will win? And who will collect the BBC Four World Cinema Achievement Award? The last two years have seen Bernado Bertolucci and Werner Herzog on the podium.
The event will be broadcast Sunday evening, 20th November, on BBC Four.