The Death Of Mr Lazarescu wins BBC Four World Cinema Award 2007
The Death Of Mr Lazarescu (Moartea Domnului Lazarescu) has been named the winner of the BBC Four World Cinema Award 2007.
The Romanian black comedy drama telling the story of the grumpy, sick Mr Lazarescu beat off a strong shortlist of films nominated for this year's award.
Director Cristi Puiu flew in from Bucharest to collect the award from actress Emily Watson at a ceremony held last night.
Pioneer sponsored the ceremony at The National Film Theatre.
Accepting the award, Puiu said: "This is a very important prize for me. The Death Of Mr Lazarescu was not an easy film to make. And after finishing it I thought to myself, this is not an easy film to sell.
"The subject and the documentary approach, the rough image, the Romanian with subtitles and, above all, the length of the film were very serious reasons why it might not succeed.
"The reaction to the film has been incredible. The film was a big success in London when it was screened during the London Film Festival. Now I am getting a prize from one of the most famous broadcasters in the world. Of course I am glad, very glad to be receiving the BBC Four World Cinema Award".
The Death Of Mr Lazarescu, Puiu's second feature, has gained favourable reviews ever since its release. Puiu has been critically acclaimed for his compassion and realist documentary-style filmmaking and lead actor Ion Fiscuteanu has been praised for his portrayal of the ailing old man.
Mr Lazarescu, a 63-year-old who lives with his cats, takes ill one night and must suffer the inadequacies of a health system at breaking point.
At 154 minutes long, the film is shot as if in real time as Mr Lazarescu is shunted from hospital to hospital, edging closer to death.
Brilliantly naturalistic and harrowing, Lazarescu displays a curious heroism and Puiu is clear-eyed in portraying what might meet us at the end of our lives.
The film has already picked up a number of international trophies including the Un Certain Regard award last year in Cannes.
Jonathan Ross hosted the award ceremony which was broadcast live on BBC Four.
The Death Of Mr Lazarescu was chosen from a shortlist of six by a panel of judges comprising: Guardian film critic and author Peter Bradshaw, actor and Oscar-winning director Peter Capaldi, and film writer Leslie Felperin.
The shortlist, announced in December 2006, was nominated by the UK's leading critics, film school heads and festival directors. The six films short-listed were: Volver, Hidden, The Child, The Beat My Heart Skipped, Lady Vengeance, and The Death Of Mr Lazarescu.
Janice Hadlow, Controller, BBC Four, said: "Every year the judges face a difficult decision choosing a winner, and this year is no exception. The diversity of films short listed for this award demonstrates the incredibly high standard of world cinema today.
"BBC Four is proud to celebrate such film making talent from all over the world. The Death Of Mr Lazarescu has captured the attention of critics and film-goers with its realist, documentary-style film making and I am delighted that the jury have chosen it to receive the award".
Notes to Editors
The World Cinema Award 2007 was broadcast live on BBC Four on Thursday 25 January 2007 at 9pm. It will be broadcast again at 4.40am on Friday 26 January and 11.10pm on Saturday 27 January.
Cristi Puiu's debut as a director was in 2001 with the low budget road movie Stuff And Dough (Marfa Si Banii). The film received several awards in international film festivals and competed in the Quinzaines des Realisateurs section of the Cannes Film Festival.
He continued with a short film Cigarettes And Coffee (Un Cartus De Kent Si Un Pachet De Cafea) in 2004 which was awarded the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival.
Puiu is currently working on a series of six movies entitled Six Stories From The Outskirts Of Bucharest, to answer Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales series. He intends the series to consist of five love stories, The Death Of Mr Lazarescu being the first story about love for one's fellow man.
This is the fourth BBC Four World Cinema Award.
Pioneer sponsors The BBC Four World Cinema Award ceremony.
Last year's winner – as voted by Amanda Donohoe, Jonathan Romney and Stephen Wooley – was Downfall (Der Untergang), a tense and riveting fly-on-the-wall reconstruction of Hitler's last moments directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.
The 2007 Judging Panel
Peter Bradshaw is a film critic for The Guardian and is author of the novel Dr Sweet And His Daughter.
Peter Capaldi is an Oscar-winning director whose work includes Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life. Many television viewers know Peter for his role as Malcolm Tucker in acclaimed BBC Four comedy The Thick Of It.
Leslie Felperin is a film writer for Sight And Sound, The Big Issue and Variety.