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Melancholia wins top prize at European Film Awards

Other winners include In A Better World, The King’s Speech, We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Kid With A Bike and Pina. Special honours bestowed upon Michel Piccoli [pictured] and Mads Mikkelsen.

The Brits and the “bloody Danes“ - to quote an impish Stephen Frears – were the big winners at this year’s European Film Awards which saw Lars von Trier’s Melancholia unsurprisingly leave the evening with the trophy for European Film 2011.

Coming to Berlin with a total of eight nominations, the film also picked up the prizes in the category of European Production Designer (Jette Lehmann) and the Carlo di Palma European Cinematographer Award (Manuel Alberto Claro).

Following his declaration this autumn to desist from any further public appearances, von Trier was represented in Berlin by his wife Bente Froge who told the 1,000-strong audience in Berlin’s Tempodrom that her husband had “no message for you“ but had instructed her “to wave in a kind and friendly way“.

Von Trier was beaten to the European Director 2011 award by his fellow Dane Susanne Bier for her Oscar-winning film In a Better World, while actor Mads Mikkelsen was honoured with the honorary award for European Achievement in World Cinema.

Numbers-wise, British cinema even topped the Danes in the slew of prizes, with three of the trophies for The King’s Speech -  European Actor (Colin Firth), European Editor (Tariq Anwar), European Film Academy People’s Choice Award - the European Actress 2011 for Tilda Swinton’s performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin, and the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award going this year to Stephen Frears.

The tally climbed to six if one was to include “honorary Brit“ Terry Gilliam who received the European Film Academy Short Film award for his 20-minute short The Wholly Family.

Other prizes included European Screenwriter for the Dardenne brothers’ script for The Kid With A Bike, European Composer for Ludovic Bource’s score to The Artist, European Discovery – Prix FIPRESCI for Hans van Nuffel’s Oxygen, European Film Academy Documentary – Prix ARTE for European Film Academy president Wim Wenders’ 3D documentary Pina, the European Film Academy Animated Feature Film to Chico & Rita, and the European Co-Production Award – Prix Eurimages to Uruguayan-born producer Mariela Besuievsky of Spanish production house Tornasol Films.

The organisers pulled a surprise on the ceremony’s audience, which included the culture ministers from Germany, Austria, Estonia, Georgia and Kosovo and MEDIA Programme unit chief Aviva Silver, when a European Film Academy Special Honorary Award was bestowed on the veteran French actor Michel Piccoli [pictured, centre] – nominated in the category of European Actor for Habemus Papam.

Another surprise for many – although perhaps not so unexpected after the film’s experience in Cannes – was the passing over by the Film Academy’s 2,500-plus membership of Le Havre by Aki Kaurismäki who – along with Bela Tarr, Colin Firth and four out of the five nominees in the European Actress category -  had disappointingly not found time to make the journey to Berlin for the annual get-together of the European film family.

Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard’s speech in honour of his colleague Mads Mikkelsen showed genuine affection and respect for the Dane’s achievements, while Stephen Frears was gracious in his acceptance speech which acknowledged the debt he owed to Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz for inspiring him to become a film director and his discovery of European cinema.

Next year’s EFAs, the 25th edition, will be held in Malta.

For a slideshow of photos from the EFAs, click here.

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