After five years of lobbying, the organisers of the Bruges-based Cinema Novo fest for world cinema have secured commitment from the Belgian state to back the funding of films from the South (Africa, Asia, Latin America).

On the back of Bruges' status as 2002 European capital, Cinema Novo will issue two post-production grants of Euros12,000 each for a feature-length film from developing countries. Project co-ordinator Walter Provo, a programming veteran of the Flanders Film Festival, expects the winners to be selected after Cannes. The deadline for entries is 31 March.

According to Provo, the two grants serve as a test case for a full-fledged production fund, which is expected to start in January 2002. The plans also include a project to financially support theatrical screenings of world cinema throughout Belgium. "We already have an agreement with the Secretary of Development Co-operation [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] regarding the start of a production fund. The test case is purely pro-forma. They are absolutely convinced of the need to promote cultural development in those regions." The production fund is similar in its concept to the Dutch Hubert Bals Fund of the Rotterdam film festival. "Our procedures should have a low-threshold," comments Provo, "We have to steer clear of patronising or neo-colonial attitudes."

During the upcoming Cinema Novo festival (15-25 March), Provo and project leader Jan De Clerq will meet with representatives of the Hubert Bals Fund, Locarno's Cinema Veritá fund and a newly established production fund of the Götenborg film festival. "We will compare policies and procedures to make sure we are not all re-inventing the wheel and to see if we can establish closer collaborations with each other."