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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 00:51 GMT
European film prize for Staunton
Imelda Staunton and Mike Leigh
Imelda Staunton arrived with Vera Drake director Mike Leigh
British star Imelda Staunton picked up the award for best actress for her role in the gritty film Vera Drake at the European Film Awards on Saturday.

German film Gegen Die Wand (Head On), directed by Fatih Akin, was named the best European film of the year.

The director award went to Alejandro Amenabar for Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), while its lead Javier Bardem won best actor.

The award ceremony was held in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

But there was disappointment for Spanish director Pedro Almodovar after his film Bad Education failed to win any of the seven awards it was nominated for.

The European Film Academy's Critics Award went to Trilogy - The Weeping Meadow by Greek director Theo Angelopoulos.

Penelope Cruz was one of the guests at the ceremony and collected an audience award voted for by cinema-goers across Europe for her performance in Italy's Non Ti Muovere (Don't Move).

Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar
Penelope Cruz posed with Spanish compatriot Pedro Almodovar

Staunton's win for abortion film Vera Drake added to her triumph at the Venice Film Festival.

She is now tipped for an Oscar nomination, which would the first in her long and varied career.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 were in the running for best non-European film but were beaten by Prix Screen International 2046, a joint French and Chinese production directed by Wong Kar-Wai.

The first European Film Awards took place in 1988, and are staged by the European Film Academy.

Imelda Staunton collects her award

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