Veerle Baetens has received the award for Best Actress at the European Film Awards for her role in Felix van Groeningen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown. Director Tom Van Avermaet was also summoned to the stage as he collected the statue for Best European Short with Death of a Shadow. The European Film Awards are internationally considered the European equivalent of the Academy Awards. This year’s ceremony took place in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Germany.

Veerle BaetensVan Groeningen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown sees Veerle Baetens as Elise, a tattoo artist, who bonds with Didier, a bluegrass banjo player, over their shared enthusiasm for American culture and music. They dive headfirst into a sweeping romance off and on stage, but when an unexpected tragedy hits their new family, everything they know and love is put to the test.

In grabbing the European Film Award as Best Actress – handed to her by Christophe Lambert – Veerle Baetens beat off strong competition from the likes of Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Luminita Gheorghiu (Child’s Pose) and Barbara Sukowa (Hannah Arendt).

It’s not the first time however that Baetens has been lauded for her role in The Broken Circle Breakdown, having already picked up the prize for Best Actress at the Tribeca Film Festival this year; and following the US release of the film in early November, The New York Times featured her as one of the standout performances of the holiday film season.

The European Film Awards also revealed a Belgian prizewinner in the short film section. Tom Van Avermaet’s short film Death of a Shadow was given the award for Best European Short Film, being eligible for the European Film Awards after winning the qualifying award at the Valladolid International Film Festival.

Animation studio and production company Walking The Dog can also be pleased about The Congress winning Best Animated Feature. The Brussels-based studio was taken on board to work on the animation sequences of the film.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that The Zigzag Kid by Flemish director Vincent Bal was the winner of the EFA Young Audience Award. The film was co-produced with Flanders through Antonino Lombardo’s Prime Time (Kid, Little Black Spiders).

Prior to this year's triumphs, Belgium had managed to collect nine awards since the inauguration of the European Film Awards in 1988. Jaco Van Dormael's Toto the Hero tops the list with four wins; with other laureates including the Dardenne brothers (The Kid with a Bike) and Hans Van Nuffel (Oxygen). The People’s Choice Award has twice come home in Belgian hands: Jaco Van Dormael grabbed it a first time in 2010 with Mr Nobody, while last year the European public chose Geoffrey Enthoven’s Come As You Are as their favourite.

Felix van Groeningen and Carl Joos wrote the screenplay of The Broken Circle Breakdown, which was based on the theatre play, The Broken Circle Breakdown featuring the Cover-Ups of Alabama, by Johan Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels. DoP was Ruben Impens, Nico Leunen took care of editing. The Broken Circle Breakdown Band, led by Björn Eriksson, performed the film’s soundtrack. Dirk Impens of Menuet (In Flanders Fields, The Misfortunates) produced the film with the support of the Flanders Audiovisual Fund/Film Fund of Flemish Cultural Affairs Minister Joke Schauvliege. Death of a Shadow and The Zigzag Kid were also able to rely on support from the Fund.

Published on Monday 9 December 2013