The ninth award ceremony of the LUX Film Prize, held yesterday (24 November) during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, crowned the French-Turkish-German co-production Mustang, by first-time director Deniz Gamze Ergüven. After its international premiere in the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes this year, Ergüven’s film had a successful festival run all over the world, winning several prizes at different festivals like Sarajevo and Odessa, and it was eventually selected as the French submission for the 2016 Academy Awards. The film offers a vivid depiction of the lives and struggles of five young sisters in a small village in Northern Turkey, and their desire to escape from a “hypocritical and patriarchal society”. Its emotional story won over the Members of the European Parliament, beating the two other candidates: Mediterranea by Jonas Carpignano, and Urok (The Lesson) by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov.
The ceremony was followed by a diverse and rewarding press seminar, also part of the LUX Prize programme, which consisted of three different panels made up of several MEPs, film directors and experts on the various topics. The common feature of these roundtables was the crucial importance of film as a common language that is able to bring together the myriad cultures and identities present in Europe. Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Parliament, was in charge of the welcome speech at the gathering, where he stressed the relevance of the LUX Prize in order to promote multiculturalism and multilingualism in the Union: “Europe is not only a territory, nor a single currency; it is primarily a set of values,” he said, adding that the main goal of the award is to “preserve the European cultural identity”.
The first panel of the seminar focused on film literacy and laying the foundations of a common cinematic language. Doris Pack, LUX Film Prize coordinator and the moderator of all the conferences, opened the discussion by giving an overview of the prize’s history and contributions to the topic. Prestigious filmmaker - and president of the Cinémathèque Française - Costa-Gavras talked about the importance of bringing film education into schools, as well as the need to strengthen national industries: “Cinema is the mirror in which countries reflect themselves.” The Greek-French director explained his work at the Cinémathèque, which every year invites hundreds of students from all around the globe, providing them with the tools they need to create and share their movies. The chat was rounded off by Peter Valchanov, director of The Lesson, who discussed the current situation of cinema in Bulgaria, and Bogdan Wenta, a member of the Committee on Culture and Education, who provided relevant data from his latest report about media literacy and cinema in the Digital Age.
The second conference of the meeting gave an interesting insight into films as implements of cultural diplomacy. Elmar Brok, Chair of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, asserted that the different member states should promote culture as an essential aspect of their international relations: “It is a tool that we can use to discuss political problems.” MEP Silvia Costa talked about the current challenges of the digital market and the defence of cultural heritage in Europe, remarking, “We should look for a new era for European culture.” Coming back to diplomacy, Costa announced a new cultural initiative that will be published in February 2016, fostering “more reciprocity between member states”, as well as with non-EU countries. According to US-Italian director Jonas Carpignano, it is essential to “preserve individual identities in our cinema and culture”, but we need to integrate them as part of a wider universal language.
Finally, the third panel brought gender issues into the spotlight. Vice-President of the European Parliament Ulrike Lunacek, MEP Julie Ward, EWA Network director Francine Raveney and The Lesson’s lead actress, Margita Gosheva, talked about the situation for female professionals in the audiovisual sector (unfortunately, winning director Deniz Gamze Ergüven was unable to stay for the debate). All of the participants shared a common concern: the lower and unequal representation of women in the European film industry. Lunacek encouraged the audience to confront traditional roles and gender depictions in movies, while Ward and Raveney focused on the absence of female professionals in the decision-making processes, showing illustrative data and examples from their own experience. “It is really necessary to promote women in every industry sector, so we should discuss what can be done from the Parliament,” as Lunacek stated.