Almodóvar seizes stage to berate Rajoy and Merkel for austerity policies

Spanish director’s outspoken performance overshadows fellow European Film Academy award winners

Director Pedro Almodovar from Spain poses with his "European Contributing To World Cinema" award during the European Film Awards in Berlin.
Director Pedro Almodovar from Spain poses with his "European Contributing To World Cinema" award during the European Film Awards in Berlin.Britta Pedersen (AP)

Pedro Almodóvar was one of the undisputed stars of the night at the 26th European Film Academy awards gala in Berlin Saturday. Spain’s most internationally acclaimed filmmaker, who won the Achievement in World Cinema Award, used his speech to harshly criticize the Mariano Rajoy government for its handling of the crisis. Before that, he had already upbraided German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her austerity policies.

Although the big winners of the night were The Great Beauty, a documentary about Rome that earned the best film, director, actor and editor prizes, and François Ozon for In The House, neither was a match for the sheer magnetism of the creator of zany comedies like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and dramas such as Bad Education. Almodóvar, 64, nevertheless went home without the best comedy award for his latest movie, I’m So Excited!

The ceremony began with the words that academy director Wim Wenders addressed to Almodóvar: “Dear Almodóvar, how happy I am to see your friendly smile among us tonight.” Actors who collaborated on many of his films over the years were up on stage to embrace Almodóvar when the winner was announced. Elena Anaya, Rossy de Palma, Paz Vega, Leonor Watling, and several others yelled out “We love you” in unison, as the audience gave him a standing ovation.

This is one of the best places I’ve ever been,” said the filmmaker, who has always enjoyed more of a following outside his country than inside. Almodóvar dedicated the win to Spanish citizens, “the victims of a government that is deaf and insensitive to our problems.”

Before the ceremony, he told journalists in Berlin that “in today’s Spain there is talk of hunger. It is very difficult to accept the austerity measures that are being imposed on us from the outside. I don’t think something that is inspired in austerity policies can be applied to Spain. We are completely different. […] Angela Merkel is a Bergman character, even though I love Bergman.”

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