Wroclaw Uncut has all the luck. Last weekend we were invited to attend the 29th European Film Awards, which Wroclaw had the honor of hosting at its very own National Music Forum.
With big names like Pierce Brosnan, Pedro Almodovar, and Wim Wenders on the ticket, crowds gathered outside the NFM on Saturday, a thankfully rather balmy winter evening, hoping to spot a well-known mug.
Streamed on a big screen outside the press tent, the red carpet was, for the most part, quietly dressed. Irish actor Liam Cunningham (best known as Davos Seaworth from Game of Thrones) was the first face I recognized – and a comforting one it was too.
The ceremony was well-organized and very exciting to watch. Every director, actor, and politician (Wroclaw’s mayor, Rafal Dutkiewicz, spoke his mind most forcefully) mentioned that it was the duty of European filmmakers to use their art to “save Europe” from itself.
A favorite quote of mine from Dutkiewicz’ opening remarks was the following: “Nationalism is similar to stinking sweat one has to wash from the body. Europe, take a shower.” The mostly Polish crowd was clearly in favor of these statements, and cheered as loudly for them as they did when Malgorzata Szumowska’s Body won the Audience’s Choice Award.
With my basic press accredidation I didn't have the chance to experience the thrill of holding a microphone and asking someone famous whom they are wearing. That said, instead I was able to actually enjoy myself at the reception, the ceremony itself, and of course the afterparty. Wroclaw’s elite certainly turned up for this event, dressed to the nines and consuming inordinate amounts of red wine and a strangely pleasant espresso, vodka, and lime cocktail created for the occasion.
I didn’t exactly get to mingle with the stars, but enjoyed watching them from the first and second-floor balconies set aside for spectators like me. When the bell was finally rung for people to take their seats, it took a further twenty minutes of cajoling by presenter Maciej Stuhr before the ceremony could start; the crowd was abuzz with wine-fueled conversation and wouldn’t be placated.
There were certainly some awkward moments, such as when Masha Alykhina of Pussy Riot appeared to make a very political statement about imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and didn’t quite get her point across. Worse was when Alice Normington won European Production Designer and a completely random woman was led out onto the stage and handed the award while poor Ms. Normington stood and gaped (the entire audience cringed). Thankfully Stuhr did a good job of resolving the issue.
The event was beautiful, however, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The catering was extravagant and professional, although the cocktails made to order were watered down (however it’s my fault for ordering an Old-Fashioned outside of Kentucky). The National Music Forum is a spectacular building inside and out, and was a worthy place for such an illustrious event.
Last but not least, having been introduced to such a dynamic list of must see European cinema – I guess it’s high time for me to catch up on some movies!