Internationally renowned Austrian filmmakers Michael Haneke (Time Of The Wolf), Ulrich Seidl (Dog Days), Barbara Albert (Boese Zellen) and Ruth Beckermann (Homemade) have added their voices to the Austrian film community's growing chorus of disapproval about the planned re-positioning of next year's Diagonale - Festival of Austrian Cinema in Graz.
Last week, the Diagonale's new management unveiled plans to launch a CineMart-style co-production market and Film Market/Industry Office (ScreenDaily.com, Sept 18)
Viennale festival director Hans Hurch set the ball rolling after last week's presentation from the Diagonale management by reiterating his call for Austrian filmmakers to boycott the 2004 Diagonale and organise a rival event to be held at the same time in Graz.
Speaking to the Austrian national newspaper Der Standard, Hurch said that he found it "pleasing and encouraging that young producers have already begun to express their displeasure."
He has already made his position regarding the new Diagonale very clear by organising a new sidebar at this year's Viennale (October 17-29) entitled News From Home to provide a new forum for local cinema with screenings of 20 new short and feature films including new films from Barbara Albert, Ulrich Seidl, Goran Rebic and Edgar Honetschlaeger.
In a reply at the weekend to the Standard interview with Hurch, director Ruth Beckermann pointed out that: "In order to meet producers and buyers we and our films travel around the world - we don't actually need a film market in Graz for that."
She revealed that the strategy for an alternative event had been in the works for some weeks now and the local film community would be called on to sign a petition by the end of the month: "The Diagonale '04 is recognised neither on the personnel level nor conceptually by the film industry and will therefore be boycotted. Numerous Austrian film-makers are not prepared to send their films to this Diagonale in Graz."
At last week's press conference in Vienna, Beckermann had claimed that, from her conversations with colleagues from South Eastern Europe, the Diagonale's "Festival of Austrian Cinema" label was being suppressed by the festival directorate in favour of promoting the new South East European focus to get films for the programme.
"Under such conditions this festival will represent a disgrace both for all of Austria as well as internationally. Euros 1.5m is definitely too much for something like that," she added.
Moreover, ahead of a roundtable discussion in Vienna this Monday evening (Sept 22) with the new Diagonale management, Brigitta Burger-Utzer of sixpack-film and Anna Maria Kollmann of the film industry umbrella organisation Dachverband der Filmschaffenden, Ulrich Seidl told the Austrian news agency APA at the weekend that he had "always said that I support boycotting the Diagonale. And I also stand by this. What [Secretary of State for Arts Franz] Morak has installed here should be made a laughing stock. That will be shameful!.".
Similarly, asked about the recent articles in Der Standard, Michael Haneke replied that he had "never made a secret of the fact that I will not show my films at the Diagonale", while Barbara Albert - whose latest feature Boese Zellen has been selected as Austria's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar - told APA that she would join her partners in the company coop99 Filmproduktion in the common front against the new Diagonale.