After three years ofpreparation, the Berlinale's World Cinema Fund (WCF) has been launched with anannual budget of Euros 500,000. The funds are to be provided over the nextthree years by the German Federal Cultural Foundation to support the productionand distribution of films from Latin America, Africa, and the MiddleEast/Central Asia.

According to WCF'sguidelines, the fund's aim is "the support of films from regions whosecinematography is endangered by political and/or economic crises (...)"support the visibility of these films in Germany and facilitate theirpresentation to an international audience."

The WCF will concentrate onfeature films and creative feature-length documentaries with a strong culturalidentity in a budget range between Euros 200,000 and Euros 1m.

Production companies withdirectors from the three regions as well as German producers, sales agents ordistributors working with a director from these regions will be able to applyfor production support of up to Euros 100,000. The support, which as a rule maynot exceed 50% of the total production costs, should be spent in the countriesof production.

In addition, German-baseddistributors and sales agents will be able to apply for distribution support ofup to Euros 15,000 for the German theatrical release of a film from one ofthese regions.

(In comparison, Rotterdam'sHubert Bals Fund offers up to Euros 10,000 for script and project development,a maximum of Euros 30,000 for post-production or final-financing, and Euros15,000 for distribution in the filmmaker's own country).

As Berlinale festivaldirector Dieter Kosslick pointed out, "the WCF should be seen in tandemwith the other activities at the festival such as the Coproduction Market andthe Talent Campus. They are all in principle pointing in the same direction. Wedon't want to just show the films from these regions, we also want to dosomething for the filmmakers and their film industries. Seen in a broadercontext of the current international political climate, I see this initiativeas being a measure of positive globalisation."

Kosslick stressed that therewas no binding requirement for the WCF-backed films to have their premieres atthe Berlinale: "a premiere is expected to take place in Germany, but thiscan be somewhere like Filmfest München, Hamburg, Hof or Cottbus. We could thenhave a showcase to present these films to an international audience during theBerlinale."

The launch of the WorldCinema Fund has been met with a positive response by German producers. FlyingMoon's Helge Anders, co-producer of the 2003 Golden Leopard winner Silent Waters, said that the fund wouldbe "very important" for his company: "The character of theprojects supported by the fund corresponds in many respects with the films weproduce. Therefore, the WCF represents a very good, alternative financingcomponent for our productions."

"The number of Germanproducers focussing on international coproductions is still less than in otherEuropean countries. It would be good if more colleagues were animated throughthe fund to work on international projects," Anders added.

Meanwhile, Christoph Thokeof Thoke Moebius Filmcompany (TropicalMalady) suggested that the new fund would be "an excellent complementto existing funds like the Hubert Bals Fund and formerlyMontecinemaverita" and indicated that he intends to submit Liverpool, thenew feature project by the Argentinian Lisandro Alonso (whose Los Muertos was screened in this year'sDirectors Fortnight in Cannes) to the first funding session.