Awards aren't all a big yawn

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, February 17, 2011

The award season is upon us. There's been the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTAs and soon good old Oscar Night. Undoubtedly the best way to watch these events is sitting at home with the tea brewing, a loo nearby and some snacks to hand. And even then only the highlights. Because award nights are dull.

To watch is hard; to attend even worse. I've been to comedy awards, theatre awards, soap awards, fragrance awards and TV awards. I once accompanied Mr O to DJ Mag's technology awards, where categories included Best Amplifier and Best Turntable.

That evening was only marginally duller than the others. Once the meal's eaten, the thirteenth gong of the night has been given away and the tiredness has kicked in, there's then the realization that there's another hour to go and somebody on your table has become so drunk that they are on the verge of disgracing themselves. Then one begins to wonder " what's the point of it all".

But I've just returned from an award ceremony in Berlin that changed my perception of such ceremonies completely.

Cinema for Peace is a worldwide initiative promoting humanitarian issues through film. It highlights the responsibility of the world of media and film to use the power of the moving image to expand peace, understanding and tolerance.

The world of film had never seemed more real

That's a tall order. But their ceremony is unlike any other. Yes, it applauds good film making; but it's less the quality of the work that wins plaudits than the social dedication and humanitarian value of the project.

It attracts huge stars with a social conscience. Richard Gere, Dustin Hoffman, Leonardo Di Caprio and George Clooney have all attended.

This year I was moved by award recipient Sean Penn speaking about his work in Haiti and his passion in helping rebuild the country. Sir Christopher Lee (absolutely charming) had flown to Berlin fresh from his Bafta fellowship the night before, to show solidarity with the organization.

Sir Bob Geldorf, Harvey Weinstein, Buzz Aldrin, Bianca Jagger and many many more watched clips from documentaries and feature films about Israelis and Palestinians trying to have a dialogue, about atrocities in Bosnia, South Africa and Iraq and about harrowing life on the ground for soldiers in Afghanistan. The Dalai Lama sent his wishes and Aung San Suu Kyi spoke from Burma.

On our table was the Iranian human rights lawyer Mohammed Mostafaei, who has been fighting the cause of women in Iran sentenced to death by stoning.

Here in the crazy world of huge film finance, uninsurable jewels and other worldly beauty was a true hero and role model. Someone who is risking life to fight against a regime that is truly evil. Standing shoulder to shoulder were some of film and television's biggest luminaries, giving an ovation to a man who was risking his liberty and that of his family to attend and be honoured. The world of film had never seemed more real.

Last updated: 11:03am, February 17 2011