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Cream of European cinema is coming to Malta

Malta will be turned into a “summit of European cinema” when the prestigious European Film Awards are held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre on December 1, attracting a host of big names from the movie world.

More than 1,000 guests, including 250 journalists, photographers and camera crew are expected to descend on the island to cover Europe’s version of the Oscars, shining a spotlight on Malta and its century-long film-servicing industry and strengthening its position on the international cinematographic map.

Renowned director Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club), the European Film Academy president, will be among representatives of the film industry and some of Europe’s greatest stars are expected at the 25th edition of the awards, which are held in Berlin every two years and outside Germany every other.

The Lifetime Achievement Award has previously been picked up by the likes of Judi Dench and Sean Connery, so an equally big name is expected to collect the award from Malta in December.

The awards, organised by the European Film Academy, with the assistance of the Malta Film Commission, are being televised via satellite to 50 countries, reaching out to millions of viewers, said its director Marion Doring.

Involved in the event since the onset, she said she had never experienced a location as “beautiful” as the Mediterranean Conference Centre, where the ceremony will be held.

“Many guests from Europe are full of expectations to discover Malta,” she said, semi-jokingly auguring that St John’s Co-Cathedral – a landmark for foreigners – would have extended opening hours when they arrived.

Ms Doring praised the services and locations on offer for the industry, but pointed out that Maltese audiences had limited opportunities to view European films and hoped the awards would “infect” them to see more and “impact” the situation.

Speaking about Malta’s film industry, Culture Minister Mario de Marco and Finance Minister Tonio Fenech acknowledged its contribution to the local economy, saying it had generated €110 million over the last four-and-a-half years.

Yesterday’s launch at the Saluting Battery of the Upper Barrakka Gardens marked the start of a series of activities in the run-up to the big night, which include free screenings of the first four feature films shot in Malta and brought over by the MFC in collaboration with the British Film Institute. It also coincided with the announcement of the 47 films from 31 countries on this year’s selection list.

In the coming weeks, the 2,700 European Film Awards members will vote for the nominations for the 17 categories, which will be announced on November 3 at the Seville European Film Festival.

The contenders

Described as a “good example of the diversity of European cinema”, the list includes: Carnage by Roman Polanski; Caesar Must Die by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, which won the Golden Bear for Best Picture at the Berlinale; In Darkness, the Polish film that was nominated for an Oscar; Amour by Michael Haneke, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes; The Angel’s Share by Ken Loach, one of the few comedies; Barbara by Christian Petzold, Germany’s Foreign Language Oscar candidate; French film Untouchable, which has been a big hit; Steve McQueen’s Shame; and the successful Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth.

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