It became clear at Cannes: 2008 has been a terrific year for European films. A French film, The Class, won the Palme d'Or for the first time in more than 20 years, while two Italian films, Gomorrah and Il Divo, confirmed Italy is back to its best as a film-making force.
UK title Hunger picked up the Camera d'Or and Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the best director prize for Three Monkeys.
Beyond the festival scene, local titles have broken box-office records all over the continent this year, notably in Russia, Germany and France. Films such as Admiral, Rabbit Without Ears and Welcome To The Sticks have left the competition, including the heavyweight Hollywood blockbusters, for dust.
The longlist for this year's European Film Awards reflects the vigour of European film-making right now.
The selection has been chosen by both the European Film Academy (EFA) committee and national film bodies (the latter is indicated by an asterisk). All the films, with the exception of The Orphanage, had their first official screening in Europe between July 1, 2007 and June 15, 2008.
EFA will announce the final nominations on November 8, 2008, with the winners unveiled at the annual awards ceremony, to be held this year in Copenhagen on December 6.
Battle For Haditha
Nick Broomfield's docu-drama is an investigation into the 2005 massacre of civilians by US marines in Haditha in Iraq. It follows his 2006 reality-inspired feature Ghosts, about illegal Chinese immigrants in the UK. Broomfield employed little known actors and actual Marines, including Elliot Ruiz, who served in the war. This is the second time Broomfield has been nominated for an EFA following Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer, which won the best documentary award in 2004.
Mike Leigh's light-hearted Happy-Go-Lucky charmed audiences at Berlin where actress Sally Hawkins picked up the best actress award. One of Leigh's best-received films, it has so far grossed $11m internationally and opened in the US via Miramax Films on October 10.
Steve McQueen made one of the most talked-about UK debuts of the year with this drama based on the final weeks of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender). The film had its world premiere at Un Certain Regard in Cannes, where it won the Camera d'Or, and went on to pick up the Discovery award at Toronto. It has been sold to IFC in the US and is being released in the UK on October 31 via Pathe Distribution.
A critical and box-office success, Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel of love and loss set during the Second World War has taken $128m worldwide ($51m in the US), was nominated for seven Oscars (winning best original score) and was awarded best film at the Baftas. Produced by Working Title, Atonement stars James McAvoy, Keira Knightley and Saoirse Ronan.
Days And Clouds
Italian director Silvio Soldini has two previous EFA nominations under his belt, for Bread And Tulips in 2000 and Burning In The Wind in 2002. Days And Clouds, which examines the impact on a marriage when the husband loses his job, debuted at the Rome International Film Festival in 2007 and won plaudits for actresses Margherita Buy and Alba Rohrwacher at Italy's David di Donatello awards. It has taken $5.5m in Italy and $6m worldwide.
Love And Other Crimes
Stefan Arsenijevic, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2002 for his short film Torzija, was named best director at this year's Sofia International Film Festival for Love And Other Crimes. Anica Dobra stars in the magical realist film as a woman planning to steal money so she can escape her life in a Belgrade suburb. The Match Factory picked up international rights and the film has been released in Germany and Serbia, grossing $100,000 to date.
Directed by Sergei Bodrov, whose credits include Prisoner Of The Mountains, this historical epic about the rise to power of Ghengis Khan took nearly $3m in its opening weekend in Russia and $23m worldwide, including $5m in the US. Mongol was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film in 2007, in Kazakhstan's first ever submission in the category.
Nikita Mikhalkov missed out on the top prize at the 2007 Venice film festival for his take on Sidney Lumet's classic 12 Angry Men, set in post-communist Russia, though he received a Special Lion award for his body of work. 12 went on to win five prizes at Russia's Golden Eagle awards and was Oscar-nominated for best foreign-language film. The film also did well locally, taking $7m in Russia.
Petr Zelenka's ambitious film, which sees Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov set in a Polish steel factory, won the Fipresci prize at Karlovy Vary. Zelenka's credits include Year Of The Devil and Wrong Side Up.
Just Another Love Story
Ole Bornedal's thriller screened in the Dramatic World Cinema section at Sundance before winning several prizes in its native Denmark. They included Bodil awards for cinematography and supporting actress and two Robert awards from the Danish Film Academy. Anders W Berthelsen and Rebecka Hemse star in the drama about a world-weary husband whose life changes when he inadvertently causes a car crash. Mandate Pictures have bought English-language remake rights. 'This confirms we have achieved our goal of making a national film with international appeal,' says producer Michael Obel, of the film's EFA recognition.
CousCous (La Graine Et Le Mulet)
Following its debut at Venice 2007, Abdellatif Kechiche's Couscous -about a boat builder who involves his family in a scheme to open arestaurant - was a breakout hit on its local release by Pathe lastDecember and opened up a debate for its positive take on the immigrantexperience in France. It went on to pick up local and internationalawards and has grossed $11.6m worldwide. IFC Films opens the film inthe US in December.
Welcome To The Sticks (Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis)
Dany Boon's culture-clash comedy Welcome To The Sticks has become the most successful French film in France of all time. Released by Pathe Distribution, it has grossed $198m ($40m in its first week) and remake rights have been sold around the world, including to Warner Bros for the US. The quirky film, in which a postman finds himself banished to isolated northern France, stars Boon and Kad Merad.
A Christmas Tale (Un Conte De Noel)
Arnaud Desplechin's dysfunctional family saga starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Roussillon and Mathieu Amalric screened in Competition at Cannes and has taken $5m in France via Bac Films. IFC Films releases A Christmas Tale in the US on November 14.
The Class (Entre Les Murs)
Laurent Cantet's docu-drama about life in a Parisian high school won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year - the first time a French film has won the prize since Maurice Pialat's Sous Le Soleil De Satan in 1987. According to jury president Sean Penn, the decision was unanimous. Chosen as the French submission for the 2009 foreign-language Oscar, The Class has taken $4m worldwide to date. SPC will release the film in the US in December.
Christophe van Rompaey's romantic comedy set in a working-class area of Ghent premiered in Critics' Week at Cannes this year, where the director won the Grand Golden Rail and the Acid awards. Starring Barbara Sarafian and Jurgen Delnaet, the film was a big local success, taking $1.7m in Belgium via Kinepolis Film.
The latest film by two-time Palme d'Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is a drama tackling the issues of sham marriages and immigration in Belgium. Lorna's Silence, which stars Arta Dobroshi and Jeremie Renier, played in Competition at Cannes this year and sold around the world including to France and Italy. Cineart released it in Belgium in August, where it has grossed almost $500,000 to date.
Since making its world premiere at Cannes in 2007, Juan Antonio Bayona's horror film has wowed critics and audiences, racking up 30 prizes and a worldwide box office of almost $76m. Produced by Warner Bros Spain and Rodar Y Rodar, The Orphanage stars Belen Rueda and newcomer Roger Princep, and is executive produced by Guillermo del Toro.
Before The Fall (3 Dias)
Directed by rising young Spanish auteur Francisco Javier Gutierrez and starring Eduard Fernandez and Victor Clavijo, this sci-fi thriller created much buzz at this year's Berlin film festival. Antonio Banderas co-produced and 'godfathered' the project, which went on to pick up four awards, including best film, at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival. Filmax released Before The Fall in April in Spain, where it grossed $300,000.
Sex And Lucia and The Lovers Of The Arctic Circle director Julio Medem's first feature film in four years has divided critics since it screened at Toronto in 2007. It stars Medem's latest muse Manuela Velles as a free-spirited art student who leaves Ibiza to join an art school in Madrid run by a hippy played by Charlotte Rampling. Chaotic Ana grossed $1.7m in Spain via Sogepaq.
Eran Riklis' Lemon Tree, starring Hiam Abbass, won the Panorama audience award at Berlin this year. The film has grossed $3.8m worldwide to date and is due to be released in the UK by Halcyon Pictures on December 12.
Matteo Garrone's devastating portrayal of organised crime in the Naples suburbs stunned the audience at Cannes this year, won the Grand Jury Prize and is Italy's submission for the foreign-language Oscar. Based on Roberto Saviano's best-selling book, Gomorrah stars Toni Sevillo who is also the lead in Il Divo.
Inspired by the life of Giulio Andreotti, the controversial former prime minister of Italy, Il Divo won the Jury prize at Cannes this year. It has grossed $6m to date in Italy via Lucky Red, and will be released by IFC in the US in January.
Kornel Mundruczo's story about a brother-sister relationship won the Fipresci prize at Cannes this year where it screened in Competition, having already won a Grand Prize in Hungarian Film Week. It went on to screen in Toronto and at the London Film Festival, and is distributed worldwide by the Coproduction Office.
I Am From Titov Veles
Teona Strugar Mitevska's I Am From Titov Veles first appeared on the radar in 2005 as an in-the-works project at the Sarajevo Film Festival's CineLink Co-production Market. This year, it returned as a finished film to the festival proper and picked up the special jury award. The story of three sisters trying to survive was released in Hungary in September.
The debut film from theatre director Javor Gardev is a drama about a man imprisoned just before the communist coup in Bulgaria in 1944 and released in the 1960s into a very different society. Zift screened at the Toronto and Moscow film festivals, winning best director at the latter. It was released in Bulgaria on September 25 where it has made $73,000 to date.
I Have To Sleep My Angel
Dejan Acimovic's divorce drama set in the 1970s in the former Yugoslavia has won a slew of prizes on the festival circuit, including the audience award at Munich, and best actress (Natasa Dorcic) and best supporting actress (Olga Pakalovic) awards at Pula. Acimovic, a popular actor in Croatia, directed the 2000 title Je Li Jasno, Prijatelju'
Swiss-French director Ursula Meier's first feature film screened in Cannes 2008's Critics' Week and also at Karlovy Vary. Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet star as a couple whose family idyll is shattered when a disused highway next to their house is reopened.
King Of Ping Pong
The debut feature from Jens Jonsson, whose 2002 short Brother Of Mine won a Silver Bear in Berlin, King Of Ping Pong won the World Cinema Jury award and the prize for cinematography at Sundance this year. The film stars Jerry Johansson and Hampus Johansson as two very different brothers in a town in north Sweden.
Waltz With Bashir
Ari Folman's powerful animated documentary about the 1982 Israel-Lebanon War was one of the must-see films of this year's Cannes and a front runner to pick up the Palme d'Or. It has since toured the international festival circuit, won six Israeli Film Academy Awards (the Ophris) and has been selected as the Israeli submission to the foreign-language Oscar. Sony Classics is releasing the film in the US in December.
Cherry Blossoms - Hanami
Set in Bavaria and Japan, Doris Dorrie's Cherry Blossoms - Hanami is the story of a widowed man who travels to Japan to visit the country his late wife longed to visit. It screened in competition at Berlin and went on to win the best film award at the Seattle film festival. A hit in Germany, it was released by Majestic Film and has grossed $8.9m (EUR6.6m). Strand Releasing is due to release Cherry Blossoms in the US in January 2009.
Dennis Gansel's high-school drama about an experiment with fascism thatgoes wrong premiered in Sundance in 2008 and went on to win severalprizes at the German Film Awards. It has grossed $23m in Germany.Cloud 9
Andreas Dresen's Cloud 9 won the Un Certain Regard Jury Coup de Coeur award at Cannes this year. Ursula Werner stars as a married woman who begins an affair after 30 years of marriage. The film went on to screen at Karlovy Vary and Toronto and has been released in Germany and Switzerland, earning nearly $3m to date.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan confirmed his reputation as one of world cinema's leading talents with Three Monkeys, winning the best director prize at Cannes. The noir-style psychological thriller, starring Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan and Ritaf Sungar, has since played the international festival circuit to much acclaim. Pyramide International has sales rights; New Yorker Films has US rights.
Director Bent Hamer was nominated for an EFA award in 2003 for Kitchen Stories. His latest film, a return to his native Norway after 2005's English-language Factotum, stars Baard Owe as a train driver facing retirement. Released in Norway in December 2007, it went on to screen at Cannes, Karlovy Vary and Toronto this year and has opened in France, Germany and Finland, grossing $700,000 worldwide to date.
It's Hard To Be Nice
Srdjan Vuletic's It's Hard To Be Nice opened this year's Sarajevo Film Festival, where Sasa Petrovic won the best actor award for his portrayal of a Sarajevo taxi driver. It has been selected as Bosnia-Herzegovina's foreign-language Oscar submission.
Radu Muntean's drama about a man torn between his family and the temptation of a night out with old friends stars Anamaria Marinca and Dragos Bucur. Released by New Films in Romania on September 19, the film has taken $18,000 to date. Muntean's credits include the well-received Fury and The Paper Will Be Blue.
Thanos Anastopoulos' second feature, Correction, premiered at the 2007 Thessaloniki International Film Festival where it won best screenplay and the best actor award for Giorgos Symeonidis. The film is Greece's Oscar submission this year, despite not winning the State Cinema Awards (it lost out to Yannis Smaragdis' El Greco, which is mostly in English). Correction is a drama about the interracial tensions between Greeks and immigrant Albanians living and working in Greece.
Flame & Citron
With a gross of $9m, Ole Christian Madsen's Flame & Citron is the most successful Danish film at the local box office for a decade. Based on a true story, it stars Mads Mikkelsen and Thure Lindhardt as Second World War resistance fighters. The Match Factory has sold Flame & Citron to 25 territories including the US (IFC) and the UK (Metrodome). 'I'm surprised it did so well in Denmark,' admits Madsen. 'It was the first time a film has shown the resistance could do something wrong.'
Shortlisted for last year's foreign-language Oscar, Andrzej Wajda's Katyn is the story of the 1940 massacre of 20,000 Polish prisoners-of-war by Soviet troops. The film has a personal connection; the director's father was among those killed. Winner of the best film at the Polish film awards, Katyn has taken $13.9m at the box office worldwide.
Four Nights With Anna
This is veteran Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski's first film since 1991's Ferdydurke and his first Polish film since the 1981 Rece Do Gory. Artur Steranko stars as a man wrongly accused of rape, with Kinga Preis as Anna. The film screened at Cannes in May and was released in Poland in September.
Following its premiere at the Dublin International Film Festival in February, Eden screened at Tribeca where Eileen Walsh was awarded the best actress prize. Also starring Aidan Kelly, Eden is director Declan Recks' adaptation of a Eugene O'Brien play of the same name about a troubled marriage in a provincial town. Liberation Entertainment has picked it up for the US.
Selected as the Netherlands' 2008 foreign-language Oscar submission, Jos Stelling's Duska is a dark comedy about a lost film critic (Gene Bervoets) who falls in love with a cinema cashier (Sylvia Hoeks). The film is the first from Eyeworks Egmond Film and Television production. Hoeks won best supporting actress at the Netherlands Film Festival, and Duska took the best music prize.
Screen review: click here
Petri Kotwica's drama about a love triangle, starring Outi Maenpaa, Ria Kataja and Martti Suosalo, made its world premiere in competition in Berlin earlier this year. It went on to win five Jussi Awards in its native Finland and has grossed $1.5m to date.Screen review: click here
Since premiering in Berlin in February, Gotz Spielmann's rural drama Revanche has been shown at 27 international festivals including Telluride and Toronto. It won the Grand Prix for best Austrian feature film at the Diagonale annual showcase of Austrian film-making in Graz in April, and is Austria's submission for the foreign-language Oscar in 2009.