Roman Polanski's 'European Oscar'

Earlier this month, Roman Polanski’s would-be “political thriller” The Ghost Writer won “best picture” at the European Film Academy awards, which were held this year in Tallinn, Estonia. The academy’s “best picture” award is officially known as the “European Film” award. The Ghost Writer also took the awards for “European Director” (Polanski), “European Screenwriter” (Polanski and Robert Harris), “European Actor” (Ewan McGregor), “European Composer,” and “European Production Designer.”

The film is a kind of amalgam of “good European” pieties (e.g., the righteousness of the International Criminal Court) and delirious anti-American phantasms. It follows the trials and tribulations of a ghostwriter working on the memoirs of a former British prime minister. In the midst of his assignment, the ghostwriter gradually uncovers the “appalling truth” -- as the official synopsis puts it -- that his employer had been under the control of the CIA while residing at 10 Downing Street. Any resemblances between the fictional former prime minister and the real former Prime Minister Tony Blair are clearly intended. For good measure, the film has the “Blair” character assassinated by the father of a British soldier who was killed in Iraq.

As discussed in my earlier PJM report on “Berlinollywood,” Polanski’s The Ghost Writer was not only largely filmed in Germany, it also benefited from massive German public subsidies. These included €3,540,944 directly from the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. This works out to nearly $5 million at current exchange rates. The money came in the form of a grant from the German Film Fund (DFFF). The DFFF is a federal program under the direction of Germany’s commissioner for Culture and Media. As noted on the German government’s website, the commissioner reports directly to the chancellor. The commissioner is commonly referred to as the “Culture Minister.”

The German Federal Film Board (FFA), a distinct federal program, pitched in with another €500,000, as did the joint “Media Board” of the German states of Berlin and Brandenburg. Other regional film funds contributed smaller sums. The Ghost Writer also received some €590,000 in support from the European Union’s MEDIA program. (See European Commission press release here.) This brings total either German or EU support to over €5.5 million or nearly $7.5 million at current exchange rates.