Akadimia Platonos, Die Fremde and Illégal were the three films shortlisted for the European Parliament’s 2010 LUX film prize, during an event at the Venice International Film Festival. Like past LUX Prize contenders, these films speak to Europeans’ hearts and identities, forcing us to ask ourselves about our cultural and family relations, and the rules by which we live.
The three contenders, unveiled in the “Venice Days” (Giornate degli Autori) section of the Venice International Film Festival, were produced in Greece/Germany (Akadimia Platonos by Filippos Tsitos), Germany (Die Fremde by Feo Aladag) and Belgium/France/Luxembourg (Illégal by Olivier Masset-Depasse).
As with previous winners — Auf der anderen Seite (2007), Le silence de Lorna (2008) and Welcome (2009) — the 2010 LUX Prize winning film will receive European Parliament financial support for subtitling the film into all the 23 official languages of the European Union (EU), an adaptation of the original version for the visually- or hearing-impaired, and the production of a 35 mm print per EU member state.
This year’s contenders will be screened in the Venice Days’ premises (10-11 September), and again at the European Parliament’s Brussels premises (26 October-19 November). Members of the European Parliament will vote for the winning film and the 2010 LUX Prize will be awarded on 24 November by the President of the European Parliament at its headquarters in Strasbourg.
Akadimia Platonos (Plato’s Academy)
Every day Stavros raises the metal shutters of his cigarette store, puts out the newspapers in front and then sets out the chairs where he and his friends sit all day, looking out on the dusty intersection and surrounding grey buildings that shelter their businesses. They’re all very proud of the way their dog Patriot, on the opposite pavement, barks at every passing Albanian. Stavros and his friends don’t like these foreigners even though they’re willing to do the jobs the Greeks won’t do, nor do they like the recently arrived Chinese. By the store’s entrance, Stavros’ increasingly senile mother mopes in an armchair, regardless of the affectionate care lavished on her by her devoted son. Then one day she suddenly falls upon an Albanian worker, embracing him and calling him «my son» in Albanian. In fact, what does Stavros really know about his parents? His mother has always told him that after his father died up north, she moved to Athens, when he was but a year old. Now Stavros’ pals start looking askance at him: is he Greek or Albanian? Does he really have the right to sing the racist little ditty: «Albanian, Albanian, you’ll never become a Greek…»?
Die Fremde (When we leave)
What would you sacrifice for your family’s love? Your values? Your freedom? Your independence? German-born Umay flees her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem with her. She is hoping to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions, torn between their love for her and the values of their community. Ultimately they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for her and Cem, but her need for her family’s love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn’t realize is just how deep the wounds have gone and how dangerous her struggle for self- determination has become.
Tania and her 14 year-old son Ivan are illegal immigrants from Russia, who have been living in Belgium for 8 years. In a permanent state of alert, Tania lives in constant fear of having her identity checked by the police – until the day she is arrested. Mother and the son are separated. Tania is placed in a holding centre. She does everything in her power to find her son again, in spite of the constant threat of deportation hanging over her head.
European Parliament commitment to culture
The LUX Prize was established in 2007, as a tangible symbol of the European Parliament’s commitment to the European film industry and its creative endeavours. Since then, the LUX Prize has cast an annual spotlight on films that go to the very heart of the European public debate. Beyond the stories they tell, these films trigger questions for Europeans: the values they share or question, the project of building Europe, and the way they address cross-border concerns such as immigration, justice, solidarity, public freedoms or fundamental rights. No matter which social issue it illustrates, each film gives a glimpse of Europeans, their lives, their convictions and doubts, and their quest for identity. I look forward to watching all three films and I’m sure it will be very difficult to select the best one.