Magazine article Screen International

Filmmakers at Risk Initiative Launched by European Film Academy, IDFA and IFFR (Exclusive)

Magazine article Screen International

Filmmakers at Risk Initiative Launched by European Film Academy, IDFA and IFFR (Exclusive)

Article excerpt

Helen Mirren, Jafar Panahi lend support to new initiative focused on filmmakers in danger.

The European Film Academy (EFA), the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) are joining forces to create the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk, a permanent organisation aimed at supporting filmmakers facing political persecution for their work.

The body would advocate for film professionals who have been imprisoned, face prosecution or censorship for their work and views.

The final framework is still being developed but its remit would include running coordinated campaigns publicising the cases of filmmakers in peril and providing legal representation.

EFA executive director Marion Doering and deputy chairman Mike Downey, IDFA artistic director Orwa Nyrabia and outgoing IFFR chief Bero Beyer are spearheading the initiative.

“Many other artistic disciplines have dedicated advocacy bodies but strangely cinema has none,” said Nyrabia. He and Beyer will be holding meetings with other potential partners at IDFA, running November 20 to December 1.

Sentsov case

Downey said the need for a permanent body became apparent to him through his involvement in the campaign to secure the release of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov from Russian custody over the last five years, until his release in September.

The campaign, which galvanised film professionals worldwide, set in motion a range of initiatives in an ad-hoc manner. These ranged from setting up a fighting fund to support Sentsov’s lawyer and family to political lobbying and gestures such as empty seats at film festivals and vigils outside Russian embassies across Europe.

“What has become clear as the dust settles on the Sentsov case is that we were ill-equipped to react and handle a case like this. It was only with the energy of the neophyte and the enthusiasm of the activist that one could get through it,” says Downey. “The fundraising, the establishing of empty chairs at festivals around the world, the letter writing to ambassadors and cultural attachés in Russia endlessly.”

“As I watched Oleg get off the plane in Kiev in September and be reunited with his daughter and family, a harsh reality dawned. The reality was that if something like this ever happened again, we would still be reacting in an improvisational, enthusiast-like uncoordinated way.”

Nyrabia says another key remit of the body would be to document the cases of persecuted filmmakers and assess whether they were legitimate.

“Film professionals can be wary of publicly pledging support for filmmakers in political danger because they don’t really understand the political situation in the backdrop. …

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