While no film looks likely to sweep the board at this weekend's European Film Awards (Dec 6), a winner has already emerged - the English language.

Out of four non-UK nominees for best European film, three are English-language productions. The exception ' Wolfgang Becker's Good Bye, Lenin! ' partly makes up for the oversight with its English title.

Lars von Trier, Francois Ozon and Isabel Coixet had their own reasons for shooting in English, not all of them related to production deals or enhanced exportability.

English has long been Von Trier's main cinematic idiom, and Dogville rests part of its authority (or its bare-faced cheek, US critics might say) on its appropriation of the language of Thornton Wilder and Arthur Miller.

Ozon's sensual thriller Swimming Pool predicates its mind games on the repressed sexuality of the writer, played by Charlotte Rampling ' and who in Europe does repression better than the English'

Coixet's My Life Without Me is the most audacious of the three Eurozone away games, at least in production terms. Based on a short story by US writer Nancy Kincaid, the film was set and shot in Canada, but it was financed largely by El Deseo, Pedro and Agustin Almodovar's production company.

Coixet, who moonlights as a commercials director, is part of a younger wave of European film-makers who live and work on both sides of the Atlantic. My Life Without Me, her second English-language film after Things I Never Told You, is a hard-edged weepie ' a Love Story with attitude ' its uncertainties of tone smoothed over by a standout performance from young Canadian actress Sarah Polley.

But it also serves as an example of a new maturity in European production, which looks more to the strength of the project than the involvement of national talent or crew (the only Iberian on the cast list is Leonor Watling, whose mother is English).

The increasing globalisation of European cinema also means a film's total sweep of awards is even less of a marker of quality at the EFAs than it is at the Oscars. Take the best actor and actress categories: as a Canadian citizen, Polley is not eligible for an award; nor is Nicole Kidman in Dogville; and 15-year-old Jamal Udin Torabi, the Afghan star of Michael Winterbottom's In This World, who is now living in London with a foster family until his appeal for asylum can be heard, is also ruled out of potential awards recognition.

The other thing that should be obvious to EFA-watchers this year is the lack of a sweep-the-board contender, as was the case with Amelie in 2001 and Talk To Her last year, which garnered four awards (including the people's choice prize) for Almodovar in Rome.

The closest is Good Bye, Lenin! ' also among the front-runners for the foreign-language Oscar ' which scores five out of a possible six nominations, missing out only on the nod for best cinematography. Dogville and Dirty Pretty Things follow close behind with four.

But the general standard is as high as it has been for many years. Although everyone will have his or her candidate for the film that has been shamefully ignored this year, this is as decent a stab at the best of the 2002-2003 season as a large group of film professionals is likely to come up with.

Three of the most obvious absentees are from the Nordic region: Thomas Vinterberg's It's All About Love, Lone Scherfig's Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself and the deliciously quirky Kitchen Stories, by Norwegian director Bent Hamer.

Another conspicuous no-show is Francois Dupeyron's Monsieur Ibrahim And The Flowers Of The Koran, while veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio has to content himself with the already announced Fipresci prize for Buongiorno, Notte (the film's producer, Rai Cinema, decided not to submit the film to the EFAs).

And there is a good case to be made for the inclusion of The Return, Andrej Zvyagintsev's powerful, Golden Lion-winning tale of a face-off between father and son, in one or more of the main sections, rather than the Prix Fassbinder first-film ghetto.

As usual, the EFA selection is more critically attentive, more attuned to festival criteria, than the Academy Awards. If the Oscar model ' rewarding success as much as excellence ' were applied here, the commercially sexy Calendar Girls would undoubtedly have scored more than a single nod (for Helen Mirren as best actress), while uncompromising arthouse fare such as His Brother (Son Frere) or Distant (Uzak) would scarcely have had a look-in. A pity, then, that the awards have so little box-office clout, as they have the potential to give a commercial leg-up to films that might really benefit from it.

What the nominations certainly confirm is the breadth of the European talent pool. The best actor hopefuls range from 25-year-old Daniel Bruehl, whose sulky, brooding idealism gave depth to the character of Alex in Good Bye, Lenin!, to 73-year-old Jean Rochefort, who delivered a performance as the retired teacher of L'Homme Du Train with perfectly-gauged comic finesse.

The single technical prize in the EFA roster ' for European cinematographer ' demonstrates a reach that the more conservative Oscars rarely achieve, from Italo Petriccione's lucid, colour-soaked 35mm photography for Gabriele Salvatores' I'm Not Scared to the guerrilla-video tactics of Marcel Zyskind for In This World.

Three of the seven films nominated for the Prix Fassbinder for European Film Discovery are also in the running for inclusion on the foreign-language Oscar shortlist: Pjer Zalica's Fuse, for Bosnia; Christoffer Boe's Reconstruction, for Denmark; and Andrej Zvyagintsev's The Return, for Russia.

Two other Prix Fassbinder nominees, Michael Schorr's quirky Schultze Gets The Blues and David Mackenzie's dark and emotionally complex Young Adam, were well received at Cannes and Venice, and confirm the energy and independent spirit of the new wave of young directors.

In an interesting coda to this year's event, the EFAs differ from the Oscars in one other significant way: EFA itself has, as in previous years, sent screeners of all the 40 nominated features and shorts to its voters. As many EFA members are also members of the US Academy, this may help the Oscar chances of such titles as Dirty Pretty Things, Good Bye, Lenin! and Calendar Girls, as well as those films nominated for the Screen International non-European award: 21 Grams, Kill Bill, Lost In Translation and The Barbarian Invasions.

Which country has the most films nominated'

Germany (7 films nominated)
Good Bye, Lenin! (Film, director, actor, actress, screenplay)
Rosenstrasse (Actress)
The Miracle Of Bern (Cinematography)
Distant Lights (Cinematography)
Schultze Gets The Blues (Discovery)
Eat Sleep No Women (Documentary)
The Story Of The Weeping Camel (Documentary)

UK (7 films nominated)
Dirty Pretty Things (Film, actor, screenplay, cinematography)
In This World (Film, director, cinematography)
Calendar Girls (Actress)
The Mother (Actress, screenplay)
28 Days Later (Cinematography)
Young Adam (Discovery)
The Day I Would Never Forget (Documentary)

France (6 films nominated)
Swimming Pool (Film, actress)
L'Homme Du Train (Actor)
Son Frere (Actor)
Anything You Say (Discovery)
A Species Odyssey (Documentary)
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (Documentary)

Denmark (3 films nominated)
Dogville (Film, director, screenplay, cinematography)
Reconstruction (Discovery)
The Five Obstructions (Documentary)

Russia (2 films nominated)
The Return (Discovery)
Hush (Discovery)

Spain (2 films nominated)
My Life Without Me (Film, director)
The Hours Of The Day (Discovery)

Italy (2 films nominated)
The Best Of Youth (Director, actor, screenplay)
I'm Not Scared (Cinematography)

Turkey (1 film nominated)
Distant (Director)

Iceland (1 film nominated)
Noi The Albino (Actor)

Romania (1 film nominated)
Maria (Actress)

Serbia & montenegro
(1 film nominated)
The Professional (Screenplay)

Bulgaria (1 film nominated)
Whose Is This Song' (Documentary)

Bosnia-Herzegovenia (1 film nominated)
Fuse (Discovery)