Cinema is an art form loved by many the world over, and one loved in particular by myself. Without it I wouldn’t have ways to spend my time, express myself, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing this article. Living in Malta, young cinephiles are hit head-on with the over-saturation of Hollywood films, and it makes sense as this is the most popular market and running a cinema requires bringing in money, and that can only be done by bringing in the most popular films. However, we are deeply missing out, and this brings me to the purpose of this article.
In order for me to watch European films, I either need to hope that the ones I want to see get a screening or two at Spazzju Kreattiv, or I need to wait for a DVD release, and those can be increasingly hard to come by. So, the majority of my film viewing is done at bigger cinemas on the island, watching Hollywood productions. This isn’t to say that I have anything against Hollywood, some of the best films ever made have come from there and there are certainly more to come. But European cinema offers something which Hollywood does not, and to me it is the notion of a deeply personal and relatable apprehension to the stories told in a European way, and this is where the LUX Film Prize comes into it.
I had the honour of representing Malta at Venice Film Festival this past summer with 28 Times Cinema, and in the process became an ambassador for them and even for the LUX Film Prize. As well as watching many Hollywood productions and the Giornate Degli Autori selection at the festival, I was treated with seeing the films of the three finalists of this years LUX Prize, and each one takes a place in my top ten favourite films from the festival.
Through being an ambassador for the LUX Prize, I was invited to Strasbourg to cover the award ceremony as a journalist. It not only gave me an amazing opportunity, but I was also reunited with some of my friends from the 28 in Venice. These are deeply personal things that the LUX Prize has given me, and I am eternally grateful.
But my personal gains aside, I want to shed light on why the LUX Prize is so important for European Filmmakers. Let’s take this year’s winner, the Icelandic production Woman At War. Iceland is a very small country, with an even smaller population. Comparing their film market to Hollywood would be like comparing the size of Malta and the size of the earth. If it weren’t for the LUX Prize, a film as special as this would likely never be seen outside of Iceland. The film is fable-like in how it unfolds. It follows a woman in her fifties and her struggle to fight the local aluminium industry for destroying the country she loves so dearly. The film is ingrained with a deep subtext about climate change, industrialization and sabotage as a means to bring about change.
The runner-up in this years selection was The Other Side of Everything, coming out of Serbia and directed by Mila Turajlić. It is a documentary and is told through the eyes of the directors’ activist mother, and it is an account of Serbia’s long struggle for democracy. The third film is the Austrian production Styx, which follows a woman as she sails to Ascension Island and on the journey comes across a sinking boat filled with refugees. It is a study on moral dilemma and doing the right thing. Each film in the selection is made in a European country, and each one has a strong socio-political message.
The LUX Prize uses its European Parliament origins in order to springboard deserving productions to the forefront of European audiences, doing so much as subtitling the films in all 24 languages spoken throughout Europe. To some filmmakers, a prize like this can seem like a ray of hope, a chance to get their film and their story out there. As Vice President of the European Parliament Evelyne Gebhart said at the media round table, the purpose of the prize is to “celebrate the rich diversity that Europe has, and to showcase cinema that transcends borders”.
Having had the chance to speak to many involved at the European Parliament, there is clearly a lot of importance given to art, and the LUX Prize is an example of that. In the current times we’re living in, we need more films like Woman At War, The Other Side of Everything, and Styx to spark public debate about issues that are sometimes glossed over. This is the purpose of the LUX Prize, it uses cinema as a means to break down borders and bring together the many peoples of Europe.
And to speak about the quality of films that the LUX Prize has supported, in its last four years it has showcased the critically acclaimed films Ida, 120 Beats Per Minute, Toni Erdmann, and Western, and these are just the most widely known. As a lover of film, I am grateful that the LUX Prize exists. Europe is not given the attention it so rightly deserves in the film world sometimes, and the LUX Prize is something that is certainly changing that.
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