Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, used three of the Berlin International Film Festival winners to draw further attention on the weekend to her bid for more money for European culture and creativity.
While Vassiliou publicly (pictured) congratulated the Golden Bear winners, Italy's Taviani Brothers, her focus seemed to be on three other prize-winning films: Silver Bear winners A Royal Affair and Sister, and critics prize recipient Tabu.
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These films were among 18 screened in the festival that had together received nearly $2 million (€1.6 million) from the European Union's MEDIA program – principally to cover development and distribution costs – and Vassiliou was lobbying for increased support for MEDIA.
Europe's film and audio-visual industries received $938 million (€755 million) for 2007-2013 from the European Union and Vassiliou is aiming to get a further $180 million (€145 million) for 2014-2020.
These film funds would be delivered under the broad banner of Creative Europe, and Vassiliou is also proposing it gets $2.24 billion (€1.8 billion), a 37% increase on current expenditure. Generally the money would be funnelled through organisations not directly given to individuals.
“Creative Europe will help the European film industry respond to the challenges of digitisation and globalisation, while at the same time helping us to safeguard and promote Europe's cultural and linguistic diversity," said Vassiliou during her visit to Berlin. “Targeted investment in the audio-visual and cultural sectors is also an important contributor to growth and jobs.”
Australia's Arts Minister Simon Crean regularly mentions “the social and economic dividends” of the arts, cultural and creative industries in discussions about Australia's National Cultural Policy, which is due out midway through this year. It will be the first comprehensive cultural strategy since the Keating Government's Creative Nation blueprint for the development of the arts industries, nearly two decades ago.
Under the European proposal, Vassiliou argues that at least 1000 European films will receive help to find audiences in Europe and throughout the world and 2500 European cinemas will receive funding to ensure at least 50 per cent of the films they screen are European. (Hardly any Australian public funding goes into this kind of film support.) European films among all newly released films in European cinemas apparently grew from 36% in 1989 to 54% in 2009 – and the European Commission has said that MEDIA deserves some of the credit for this.
Other examples of where the film money will go can be seen in the festival sidebar events that the European Commission supported: a co-production market at which 40 films are presented to potential investors and partners; a talent campus and a fellowship program for young filmmakers from all over the world; and the promotion of 10 new European actors. (Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz are former beneficiaries of this initiative.)
Overall, the European cultural and creative sectors represent about 4.5% of European GDP and 3.8 per cent of the EU workforce of 8.5 million people.
The Creative Europe proposal is under discussion by the European Council (27 member states) and the European Parliament within the context of the overall budgetary framework for 2014-2020.