Magazine article Screen International

European Industry Mobilises Ahead of MEDIA Hearing

Magazine article Screen International

European Industry Mobilises Ahead of MEDIA Hearing

Article excerpt

European film professionals are anxious to hear what's discussed on March 18 about the hotly debated future of the MEDIA Programme.

It's an important week ahead for anyone making films in Europe. On March 18 in Brussels, there will be a public hearing on the future of the European Union's MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes. More than 450 European professionals are expected to attend, and Persepolis filmmaker Marjane Satrapi and Celluloid Dreams president Hengameh Panahi will deliver keynote speeches on the day.

The day-long event comes hardly more than a month after the European film industry attending the Berlinale was rocked by rumours that the current MEDIA 2007 might be the last edition of the programme when it runs out in 2013 or be absorbed into a generic support programme for the European creative industries.

Letters were sent by European Film Agency Directors (EFADs), the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA) and a group of 12 European networks and international producer, distributor and exhibitor organisations to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [pictured] calling on him to maintain MEDIA in its present form after 2013. The European Film Academy is also garnering member support for its open letter to Barroso.

In addition, petitions were organized in support of MEDIA by the French industry body L'ARP and the European association for animation film CARTOON. The latter has so far collected more than 6,400 signatures including those of such leading animators as Nick Park, Sylvain Chomet, and Jimmy Murakami as well as colleagues ranging from directors Tom Tykwer and Luc Besson, to UK actress Greta Scacchi and former Locarno artisitic director Frederic Maire.

The mobilization of the European film community to lobby for a clear commitment to a MEDIA programme after 2013 did not go unnoticed for long within the corridors of the European Commission at its Brussels HQ.

Speaking last weekend during a visit to Finland's Turku, one of this year's European Capitals of Culture, Barroso declared that reports saying that the European Commission was intending to reduce the MEDIA Programme were "completely inaccurate." On the contrary, he suggested that plans were being drafted to "reinforce" the programme.

EU culture commissioner Androulla Vassiliou echoed Barroso's stance at the beginning of the week with an opinion piece in France's Libération entitled "No, Europe has not abandoned its filmmakers." She claimed that fears that the MEDIA Programme will be abolished are "unfounded" and "unjustified". "My determination is unrelenting to support the MEDIA Programme," Vassiliou wrote. "Thus, not only within the framework of the coming discussions on the new European budget, I will be particularly vigilant about maintaining at least the present level of financial provision for the MEDIA Programme, but also be looking to extend its activities and improve its efficiency." She added that she would be wanting "to engage in a constructive and open dialogue with all parties concerned."

Thus, the 450 European professionals headed to the hearing in Brussels next week now have more of an inkling of the Commission's position vis-à-vis MEDIA's future.

However, in a reaction to Barroso and Vassiliou's statements, France's L'ARP, who has gathered 1,800 signatures in its petitition so far, said that Europe's filmmakers "will nevertheless remain vigilant as long as no statement as to the independence of the program has been clearly provided."

A delegation of filmmakers led by Costa Gavras, Theo Angelopoulos and Radu Mihaileanu are being received by Barroso on March 17, a day before the public hearing, and may be joined at this meeting by Wim Wenders, Cristian Mungiu, Bertrand Tavernier and the Dardenne brothers. …

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