The Broken Circle Breakdown, a Belgian movie describing a tragic love story against the backdrop of a country music band, was awarded this year’s Lux Prize by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (11 December).
The Broken Circle Breakdown was selected as 2013 Lux Prize laureate, after the 766 members of the European Parliament cast their ballot for the EU’s award on European cinema excellence.
The Belgian movie tells the story of a blossoming romance between Elise, who owns a tattoo shop, and Didier, who plays the banjo in a band. Their happiness seems complete when their daughter is born but they are later confronted with the loss of their child, putting their relationship to the test.
The movie has been lauded for its soundtrack, a compilation of country songs, which triggered renewed interest for the genre in its home country, Belgium.
“The movie tackles a very sensitive topic and manages to do this in a compelling, touching way,” said Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt from the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament. “It simply stood out, compared to the other contenders,” she told EurActiv.
The Belgian movie was shortlisted together with the French-Italian drama ‘Miele’, directed by Valeria Golino, which was voted second, and The Selfish Giant, a British film by Clio Bernard, which came third.
The Broken Circle Breakdown has won several prizes at international film festivals over the past few months. Last Saturday, lead actress Veerle Baetens landed the European Film Award for Best Actress in Berlin, beating prestigious nominees like Keira Knightley and Naomi Watts.
The Broken Circle Breakdown is directed by Felix Van Groeningen, a young Belgian director. At the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Van Groeningen said the Lux Prize “makes it possible for films to reach different territories and countries so that many people can see it.”
“That is why we make movies,” the director added.
Spotlight on social issues
The Lux Prize is a yearly award, organised by the European Parliament, to highlight exceptional movies that put the spotlight on social and political issues in Europe.
The prize does not include a grant to the producers or directors. Instead, the European Parliament offers subtitles in all 24 official languages of the EU. It also offers support for screening the movie across Europe, helping to overcome the difficulties that European filmmakers face in getting visibility in other countries.
“All the more, movies in different languages find their way to various national audiences in Europe,” said Van Brempt. “Take Danish television series, for example: they’re thriving in several EU member states. It shows that the European audience is ready to watch movies in all kinds of languages, with subtitles.”
Up until January 2014, the three shortlisted movies for the 2013 LUX Prize are screened across European cities in a series of events called the Lux Film Days.
The president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz (Socialists & Democrats), congratulated the winner. "By telling stories about who we are or who we could be, European films help to create a cultural consciousness for Europe. Film makers do not need us, European politicians, but we politicians need you, the film makers. Stories and emotions can help to develop identity. European films boost a feeling of togetherness in Europe."
Martin Callanan, president of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, disagreed, saying: "The European Parliament should not be in the business of organising its own film prize. I've yet to meet an MEP who has watched all the films and voted!"
The European Parliament's Lux Prize began in 2007.
The stated aim of Lux - which means 'light' in Latin - was to spur public debate about European issues such as integration and to facilitate the diffusion of European films on the continent.
The films must meet a number of criteria to be eligible. They should be fiction or documentary (including animated), have a minimum length 60 minutes, have been produced or co-produced in an EU country or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.
They must also illustrate the universality of European values and the continent's diversity of culture.
Members of the European Parliament hold a final vote to decide the prize winner.