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Boosting the European Film Awards' image

Jochen Kürten als
December 11, 2018

Films from Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula or the Baltic nations: The European Film Awards reflect the continent's linguistic and cultural diversity. But there are still deficits in marketing for the European "Oscar."

Europäischer Filmpreis 2013
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Brakemeier

Europe can probably only blame itself. Why do the European Film Awards, to be awarded this Saturday, December 15 in Seville, Spain, remain in the shadow of the Oscars?

The American awards naturally have a longer tradition as they have been awarded since 1929. The European Film Awards, on the other hand, have only existed since 1988. Still, that means they have been around for 31 years. Word should have long gotten out that the Europeans also have "Oscars" of their own.

European cinema is more diverse

But that's not the case. Global media focuses on the Oscars long in advance of the ceremony, but not on the European Film Awards. Why is that? Certainly not due to the quality of the films. On the contrary, one could even claim that European cinema as a whole is much more diverse, colorful and artistically appealing than the English-speaking continent of North America — even if it is less commercially productive.

Filmstill from "Girl" by Lukas Dhont
One of the five films nominated for best film: "Girl" Image: Kris De Witte

This shouldn't imply that some outstanding films haven't recently won Oscars — especially by Mexican directors working in Hollywood. The Oscar remains first and foremost a prize in the purely English-speaking film world: It is awarded primarily to films from Hollywood, sometimes also from other parts of the English-speaking world.

The European 'Oscar' models itself on the American Academy

So why do the European awards stand in the shadows of its role model? The awards on both continents share many categories, with best film, best actors, best cinematography, best costume design, and so on. In addition, the nomination procedure in the run-up and the tension on the evening of the award ceremonies is the same. Europeans also organize and present the gala with similar professionalism as that of their Los Angeles colleagues year after year.

"Dogman" filmstill
Likewise up for best film, "Dogman"Image: festival-cannes

A "disadvantage" of Europeans is certainly their linguistic and cultural diversity. In this respect, the film award is a mirror of politics. When Europe sits at the negotiating table with the US, it is always difficult to speak with a single voice. Europe must continually pull itself together, and it does not have a uniform image. But why should this be disadvantageous in the field of culture, rather than seen as an advantage?

An attempt at understanding

Searching for explanations for the shadowy existence of the European Oscar, three notions emerge.

1. The United States has greater global pull when it comes to stars. A red carpet on which George Clooney or Julia Roberts walks is photographed a thousand times more than one on which Catherine Deneuve or Antonio Banderas appears. That has nothing to do with a lack of star appeal on the part of the Frenchwoman or the Spaniard. It simply has do with the global tabloid market, which formerly meant print and television, and nowadays means social media, which is fixated on English-language culture.

"Cold War" filmstill
"Cold War": another nominee in the best film categoryImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Neue Visionen

2. Which brings us to the second point, the media. And that's where Europe has to be critical of itself. Much European media falls under the spell of US stars and Hollywood blockbuster cinema. That often has to do with money, but not only. Films rake in billions of dollars. But should this be the determining factor in an awards ceremony revolving around categories such as best film or best actress? Europe, and the European media in particular, should be much more self-confident.

3. So, we come to point three. Marketing. Here, Europeans are really lacking. The European Film Academy should also be more self-confident. In America, producers invest a lot of money in the Oscar hype in the run-up to the gala. Accordingly, Europeans would have to do much more to boost advertising and promote the European Film Awards with a targeted marketing concept. Only in this way can we Europeans understand the treasure that the continent's cinema holds.