The 15th European Film Awards were a huge triumph for Spanish maestro Pedro Almodovar and something of a let down for Europe's cherished diversity in a year that saw a wide array of international films score with both critics and audiences.

For his touching coma drama Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella), which was crowned as European film of the year, Almodovar also personally scooped awards for best screenwriter, the reinstated prize for best director and its equivalent in the People's Choice section - a category voted for directly by the cinema-going public. Javier Camara, the newcomer who played the male nurse Benigno in the picture, was also the recipient of the People's Choice award as best actor.

However, the Awards for once will have little chance of illuminating the path towards future Oscar glory. Spain selected Monday's In The Sun over Talk To Her as its official candidate for the foreign-language Oscar. And the Screen International Award for a non-European film went to Elia Suleiman's Divine Intervention, which was last week rejected as an Oscar contender as the US Academy does not recognise the statehood of Palestine.

In the official section, selected by members of the European Film Academy (EFA), Sergio Castellito was named best actor for his performances in both The Hour Of Religion (L'Ora Di Religione) and Bella Martha. The ensemble cast of 8 Women (8 Femmes) was named best actress, an award which drew gentle reproach from the audience assembled in Rome, even before it was discovered that not one of the cast, nor director Francois Ozon, was in attendance. The award was instead collected by fellow Frenchman Johnny Hallyday, the rocker-turned-actor whose breakout performance in L'Homme Du Train had surprisingly not even been short-listed.

EFA's nod to new talent came in the form of the European Discovery/Fassbinder Award which went to young Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi, with his diploma film Hukkle, an unusual agrarian-set murder mystery almost entirely without dialogue.

The peripatetic awards this year travelled to Rome and were housed in the splendid Teatro dell'Opera followed by a lavish party at the imposing Palazzo delle Esposizione across the road. The ceremony went off without major hitches, but also without much in the way of atmosphere. While it gained in professional touches - co-host Asia Argento wore three different dresses during the ceremony and Castellito, unusually for a European actor, even thanked his agent - it was undermined by the excruciating performance of British comedian Mel Smith, who returned to share hosting honours with Argento. It was difficult to tell which was worse, Smith or a juvenile script which included pathetic jokes about a late taxi, Smith's prejudices about Italy and farting noises. Chemistry with Argento was non-existent.

The biggest cheer of the night, and the only one to merit a standing ovation, was the Lifetime Achievement Award for local Italian screenwriting legend Tonino Guerra, writer of some 90 screenplays.Almodovar's awards may have sat easily with the audience and EFA members, and the director was as generous and excitable as ever in his acceptance speeches, but the roster of awards meant that many of Europe's stand out films went away empty handed despite multiple nominations. These included Aki Kaurismaki's The Man Without A Past Mies (Vailla Menneisyyta), Peter Mullan's The Magdalene Sisters and Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday. Cannes Palme d'Or-winner The Pianist, which is beginning to carve out a successful career at the box office, only took the best cinematography award, for Pawel Edelman.

European Film Awards 2002

European Film
Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella) dir: Pedro Almodovar

European Director
Pedro Almodovar for Hable Con Ella

European Actor
Sergio Castellito for The Hour Of Religion (L'Ora Di Religione) and Bella Martha

European Actress
The cast of 8 Women (8 Femmes)

Lifetime Achievement Award
Tonino Guerra

European Discovery/Fassbinder Award
Hukkle dir: Gyorgy Palfi

European Short Film/Prix UIP
10 Minutes dir: Ahmed Imamovic

Screen International Award for a Non-European Film
Divine Intervention Dir: Elia Suleiman

European Documentary/Prix Arte
To Be And To Have (Etre Et Avoir) Dir: Nicolas Philibert

European Cinematographer
Pawel Edelman for The Pianist

European Achievement In World Cinema
Victoria Abril

European Critics Prize/Prix FIPRESCI
Sweet Sixteen Dir: Ken Loach

European Screenwriter
Pedro Almodovar for Hable Con Ella

People's Choice - Best Actor
Javier Camara in Hable Con Ella

People's Choice - Best Actress
Kate Winslett in Iris

People's Choice - Best Director
Pedro Almodovar for Hable Con Ella