On Friday 1 September, the official announcement of the five films nominated for the 2024 LUX Audience Award took place at the Italian Pavilion of the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido, on the occasion of the 80th Venice International Film Festival. A delegation from the European Parliament was present at the Italian gathering, one of the recurring stops on the annual tour undertaken by the pan-European audience award, which has been presented jointly by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy since 2020, in partnership with the European Commission and the Europa Cinemas network. The unveiling of the shortlisted titles in Venice represents the official kick-off for the fourth edition of the award, which, for the second time, will see a total of five films competing for the coveted trophy, with the ultimate aim to enhance the circulation of European cinema and promote its diversity, while also attracting a broader audience.
During the live-streamed event, moderated by film journalist Stanislas Ide, Vice-president of the European Parliament Evelyn Regner delivered the opening speech, followed by some words by Mike Downey, chair of the selection committee for the LUX Audience Award. The nominated films were revealed by MEPs Laurence Farreng, Iban Garcia del Blanco, Emmanuel Maurel, Salima Yenbou and Željana Zovko, all representatives of the Committee on Culture and Education. This year’s finalists are 20,000 Species of Bees by Estíbaliz Urresola (Spain), Fallen Leaves by Aki Kaurismäki (Finland/Germany), On the Adamant by Nicolas Philibert (France/Japan), Smoke Sauna Sisterhood by Anna Hints (Estonia/France/Iceland) and The Teachers’ Lounge by Ilker Çatak (Germany).
“Each of the five titles just revealed offers a unique way to have a conversation on the challenges that European society is facing today: the threat to women's rights, the growth of social inequality, and the weakness of inclusive policies for minorities and diversity. We love European film, as it holds up a mirror to our dreams, concerns and hopes,” said Regner after the announcement.
After its successful premiere in the main competition of the Berlinale this year, where it won the Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance (awarded to its young protagonist Sofia Otero, who made a stunning breakthrough), 20,000 Species of Bees by Spanish director Estíbaliz Urresola received the Golden Biznaga for Best Spanish Film at the Málaga Film Festival. Urresola’s first feature, set in the Basque countryside, presents a deeply moving story about a mother who struggle with her child’s quest for identity while dealing with her own family legacy.
Aki Kaurismäki’s latest work, Fallen Leaves, emerged as one of the most celebrated titles in the running for the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year, walking away with the prestigious Jury Prize. The esteemed Finnish master, who was part of the LUX Official Selection in 2017 with The Other Side of Hope and in 2011 with Le Havre, delivers another bittersweet and melancholic story about two lonesome souls (played by Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanenwho) who meet by chance in the streets of Helsinki and fight against all odds in their pursuit of love and happiness.
For the first time, two documentaries will vie for the LUX Audience Award this year, aiming to follow in the footsteps of Collective by Alexander Nanau, the 2021 LUX Award laureate. On the Adamant, the recent Golden Bear winner by French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert, is one of the non-fiction titles shortlisted for this edition. Philibert’s work is a tender yet poignant portrait of a singular space: a floating care centre located on the river Seine, in the heart of Paris, which welcomes adults with mental illnesses and promotes an unusual approach to therapy that defies all prejudice.
In Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, the other documentary in this year’s selection, Estonian director Anna Hints explores the Nordic and Baltic tradition of the smoke sauna as a healing space where a group of women share a unique and liberating experience. Hints’ feature debut premiered in the World Cinema Documentary Competition of Sundance, where it won the Award for Best Directing, and has recently been announced as the Estonian submission for the 2024 Oscars (see the news).
Finally, the 2023 Berlinale Panorama entry The Teachers’ Lounge by German director Ilker Çatak is a thrilling drama set within the walls of a public school, where a series of seemingly insignificant events cause a “snowball effect” in the life of a young teacher (an outstanding lead performance by Leonie Benesch). After collecting five statuettes at the German Film Awards, including Best Feature Film, Çatak’s work has been selected to represent Germany in the Best International Feature category at the Academy Awards. Moreover, all five LUX nominees have been shortlisted for the European Film Awards in the fiction (see the news) and documentary (see the news) categories.
The five finalists were chosen by a selection panel that comprises renowned film experts from across Europe, as well as representatives of the 27 Times Cinema project. In the coming months, the nominated films will be subtitled in the 24 official languages of the EU and screened in cinemas across Europe, including free screenings organised in collaboration with the European Parliament Liaison Offices in the member states. EU citizens who attend these screenings will be able to rate the films via a dedicated platform starting from 1 September (45,000 citizens took part in the process last year, setting a new record for participation). The winner will be selected jointly by the MEPs and the public ratings, each accounting for 50% of the final result. Eventually, the winning film will be announced in March 2024 at a dedicated ceremony organised on the European Parliament’s premises.