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BBC Four World Cinema Awards 2008 - Pan's Labyrinth

By Michelle Strozykowski

A look at the BBC4 World Cinema Awards - who won the prize in 2008 and which foreign films have been previously honoured.
  • 2008 - Pan's Labyrinth

Mexican Guillermo Del Toro's Spanish language epic Pan's Labyrinth walked away with the 2008 BBC Four World Cinema Award

In a televised debate the judges - actor Christopher Ecclestone, director Nick Broomfield and actress Archie Panjabi - discussed the merits of all the shortlisted films with host Jonathan Ross, before announcing Pan's Labyrinth as the worthy winner. Del Toro's multi-faceted film tells the story of a lonely girl who escapes the horrors of her life through an imagined fantasy world. She is drawn into a battle against demonic forces of evil, drawing parallels with her real world, a Spain ravaged by civil war.

Del Toro's dark fairytale beat the feted German film The Lives of Others and Michel Gondry's quirky romance The Science of Sleep. The other nominations were Turkish/French film Climates and the Thai production Syndromes and a Century.

The Previous Winners

The BBC Four World Cinema Awards are still in their infancy but they have already become an excellent marker of quality in world cinema. A look back over the recent winners and nominees provides a snapshot of the very best in foreign film-making.

  • 2004 - Belleville Rendezvous

The inaugural awards ceremony took place in 2004, a year of fantastic foreign films. The award winner was Belleville Rendezvous, the delightful French animation, but it could have gone to any one of the fantastic films on the shortlist. Brazilian film City of God, which humanized the lives of kids from the slums, would have been a very deserving winner, as would Etre et Avoir, the French film about an unswervingly dedicated teacher and his wonderful class of children. Also nominated that year were Goodbye Lenin, The Man Without a Past and Spirited Away.

  • 2005 - The Return

In 2005 the winner was Russian film The Return, a dark, moody film about an absent father who returns out of the blue and sweeps the children off on a camping trip. The film exudes mystery and intrigue, and managed to beat the hotly tipped Che Guevara story The Motorcycle Diaries as well as the beautiful Chinese/Hong Kong epic Hero. The other nominees were Bad Education, Uzak and Zatoichi.

  • 2006 Downfall

2006 saw another unusual film win, the German/Italian/Austrian produced Downfall. This film documents the last days of Hitler as world war II draws to an end. It features an extraordinary performance from Bruno Ganz. The other nominees were 2046, House of Flying Daggers, Look at Me, The Sea Inside and Tropical Malady.

  • 2007 The Death of Mr Lazarescu

The 2007 winner was the Romanian black comedy The Death of Mr Lazarescu. The film is a chilling indictment of the state of health care as Mr Lazarescu is passed from hospital to hospital in search of medical assistance in his final hours of need. This film beat Pedro Almodovar's tour de force Volver and Michael Haneke's suspense filled Hidden. There was also strong competition from The Beat That My Heart Skipped, The Child and Lady Vengeance.


A quick update to this article: BBC Four World Cinema Awards sadly no longer exist. The programme was dropped in a cost cutting exercise in in 2011 (also the last year the prize was awarded). It had previously been screened live on BBC Four, hosted by Jonathan Ross. The final recipients of the award (missing from my historical article above) were as follows:

2009 - 4mnths, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

2010 - The White Ribbon

2011 - Nader and Simin: A Separation

Notes: Wim Wenders was awarded a special Achievement Award for an International Film-maker of Great Distinction in 2009