Belgium's federal government decided today to increase annual subsidies to the Royal Belgian Film Archives and Cinematheque by 70% to $1.7m (Euros2m). This comes into effect from 2002.
The decision follows months of heavy lobbying by both local and international film personalities, including Cannes festival head Gilles Jacob, Belgian film-maker Andre Delvaux, Flanders Film Fest chief Jacques Dubrulle, former Netherlands Film Museum curator Eric De Kuyper and Martin Scorsese, who recently called its collection "one of the best in the world" and implored the Belgian government to give it the same treatment as any other important museum. Much of the material that was used for his documentary A Personal Journey Through American Movies could only be found in Brussels. The archive has the world's largest collection of films, including 100 American silents that exist nowhere else.
Last year the archive received the news that, as a national institute, it was to lose its financing as a result of the country's increasing federalisation. A grant from the national lottery this year was only considered a temporary solution. Next year the government intends to privatise that too.
Besides feature films, the archive collects and restores newsreels, documentaries, shorts, commercials, educational and propaganda films. As well as making its collection open to researchers, the archive's mission is also to ensure that this material is available to be seen by the public.