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Honorary Award to Béla Tarr at the 36th European Film Awards

todayOctober 11, 2023

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Legendary Director Recognized for His Unique Vision and Impact on European Cinema

The European Film Academy is set to honour a true luminary of the cinematic world at the 36th European Film Awards on December 9. Renowned Hungarian director Béla Tarr will be presented with the Honorary Award of the Academy President and Board, a well-deserved recognition for his outstanding contributions to European cinema.

Early Beginnings

At the age of 16, Béla Tarr‘s passion for filmmaking was ignited, as he ventured into the world of cinema by creating amateur films. Concurrently, he worked as a caretaker at a national House for Culture and Recreation. Notably, his early cinematic endeavours primarily comprised documentaries, with a particular focus on capturing the lives of urban workers and impoverished individuals in Hungary.

Tarr’s proficiency in amateur filmmaking quickly drew the attention of the Béla Balázs Studios, a renowned institution named in honour of the Hungarian cinema theorist who played a pivotal role in supporting Tarr’s debut feature film, “Family Nest” in 1979, which he commenced at the tender age of 22. Remarkably, Tarr embarked on this filmmaking journey with minimal financial resources, utilizing non-professional actors, and completing the project within the tight timeframe of six days.

The resulting film remained true to the prevailing “Budapest school” or “documentarist” style, which was in vogue at Béla Balázs Studios during that era. “Family Nest”, won the Grand Prix at the Mannheim Film Festival.

Portrait of director Béla Tarr by Eszter Gordon
Portrait of Béla Tarr by Eszter Gordon

A Series of Memorable Works

Tarr’s filmography is studded with remarkable achievements, such as “The Prefab People” (1982), which received a special mention at the Locarno Film Festival, and “Almanac of Fall” (1984). His work on “Damnation” earned the film a nomination at the inaugural European Film Awards in 1988.

However, one of Tarr’s most iconic creations is Sátántangó“, a monumental 450-minute adaptation of László Krasznahorkai’s novel. The film received the Caligari award at the Berlinale‘s Forum section in 1994 and swiftly achieved cult status, hailed as one of the most important films of the 1990s. “Sátántangó” exemplifies Tarr’s distinctive style, characterized by long, mesmerizing black and white shots that invite viewers to experience time in a unique way.

In the new millennium, Tarr’s “Werckmeister Harmoniak” claimed the Grand Prize at the Hungarian Film Week, while “The Man from London” (2007), an adaptation of Georges Simenon’s work starring Miroslav Krobot and Tilda Swinton, competed at the Cannes Film Festival. His exceptional contributions were recognized as he was celebrated as the “Foreign Cineaste of the Year” at Cannes.

Tarr’s 2011 masterpiece, “The Turin Horse” received the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear and FIPRESCI Award in Berlin and earned a nomination at the European Film Awards.

Awards and Accolades

Béla Tarr‘s impact on the world of cinema goes beyond his exceptional films. He has served as the honorary president of the Hungarian Filmmakers’ Association and is a member of the prestigious Széchenyi Academy of Letters and Arts. His accolades include the Kossuth Prize, the most prestigious Hungarian award for artists, and the Balázs Béla Prize for filmmakers. He’s also been recognized internationally, named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, and presented with numerous national and international awards, honorary doctorates, and lifetime achievement honours.

Academic Commitment

Béla Tarr‘s influence extends beyond his own work. He was an early supporter of the Sarajevo Film Festival, founded in 1995, and in 2013, he established film.factory, a film school in Sarajevo. He later moved to the city in 2016, leaving a lasting impact on the budding filmmakers under his guidance.

A due and deserved recognition

On December 9, 2023, Béla Tarr will be the guest of honour at the European Film Awards ceremony in Berlin, where he will receive the Honorary Award of the Academy President and Board. Film enthusiasts around the world can witness this momentous occasion as the ceremony will be streamed live on

The recognition of Béla Tarr with the Honorary Award of the Academy President and Board is a testament to his enduring influence on European cinema. As the sixth filmmaker to receive this prestigious honour, Tarr joins the ranks of cinematic legends such as Manoel de Oliveira, Michel Piccoli, Sir Michael Caine, Andrzej Wajda and Costa Gavras. This award serves as a fitting tribute to a visionary director and an influential figure with a strong political voice who continues to inspire both colleagues and audiences worldwide.

Written by: Federica Scarpa




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