OVIEDO, Spain – U.S. filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and Cuban writer Eduardo Padura were major protagonists on Friday at the Princess of Asturias Awards gala.
Spain’s King Felipe VI presided over the ceremony at Oviedo’s Teatro Campoamor, accompanied on stage for the award presentation by Queen Letizia, while his mother, Queen Sofia, looked on from the royal box.
The 1,500 invited guests responded with particular warmth to Coppola, winner of the Arts Award, who delivered one of the keynote speeches.
“This is the real thrill of the human species, that each generation children can run faster, leap higher, play musical instruments with uncanny technical excellence and dream bigger, newer, cinematic expressions than we can’t even guess at,” he said.
The king, in his remarks, hailed Coppola for his “unmistakable talent” and his ability “to reinterpret and renew the gamut of human passions ever more wisely and effectively.”
From “the prodigious and magnificent list” of Coppola films, Felipe cited “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” as emblematic.
Asturias Literature laureate Padura, sporting the quintessentially Cuban shirt known as the guayabera, spoke lovingly of Cuba, the Spanish language and work.
He recounted his origins in the Havana suburb of Mantilla, where he continues to live in the house where he was born.
“Padura is one of the leading writers of his generation” and the creator of “a body of work which evocatively embraces Havana, its neighborhoods, its people and its history,” King Felipe said.
“All his works enable him to speak of disappointment, failure, disillusionment, corruption and, at the same time, the beauty and serenity of happy days awash with joy and enthusiasm,” the monarch said of the writer.
French economist Esther Duflo, recipient of the Social Sciences Award, invoked the plight of refugees and said that society “cannot allow itself the luxury” of turning its back on them.
The king stressed that Duflo has spent years “engaged in the noble task of finding effective ways to combat extreme poverty and explaining why many of the initiatives taken in this area fail.”
Online encyclopedia Wikipedia, honored with the 2015 Award for International Cooperation, “seeks to place culture within the reach of the largest number of people possible, with a clear desire to expand knowledge, to generalize and make knowledge accessible,” Felipe said.
Spanish philosopher Emilio Lledo, the Communication and Humanities, expressed concern about humanity’s inability to rise above ignorance, violence and cruelty.
The king presented Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, who shared the Award for Technical and Scientific Research, as “two scientists renowned worldwide for having developed a revolutionary technology that enables the modification of genes with great precision.”
The Award for Concord, granted to the Hospitallers of St John of God, was accepted by the head of the order, Jesus Etoyo.
The only honorees not present in Oviedo were basketball-star brothers Pau and Marc Gasol, joint recipients of the Sports Award, who were unable to make the trip from the U.S. due to professional commitments with their respective NBA teams.
“The memories and emotions of the recent European gold medal won by our national team, to whom we reiterate our congratulations from here, are still very much alive in our thoughts,” Felipe said in his comments about the Gasol brothers.
Alluding to the independence movement in Spain’s northwestern region of Catalonia, the king said: “May no one build walls with feelings. Divisions will never make a people great, they only impoverish and isolate.”
“In any democratic society like ours, the defense of the law and constitutional principles is the guarantee of the rights and freedoms of all citizens. We Spaniards must therefore preserve the coexistence that fortifies and enriches our collective life,” he said.
This year marks the first time the prize, which bears the name of the heir to the throne, has been called the Princess of Asturias Award, as it was changed from Prince when Princess Leonor’s father, ascended the throne last year as King Felipe VI.
Each winner receives 50,000 euros (roughly $56,000) and a replica statuette designed by late Spanish artist Joan Miro.