The Locarno Film Festival has joined France's CNC, theUK's British Council, bfm International Film Festival, Screen East andGermany's Goethe Institut among the initial partners for a new European film developmentinitiative, Babylon. Fiona Howe and Gareth Jones of the UK production houseScenario Films and Thierry Lenouvel of France's Cine-Sud Promotion unveiled theinitative in Locarno this weekend.

Babylon is intended as a pan-European forum "inwhich minority filmmakers can speak to each other and to the widestinternational audience, providing access and inclusion" with the provisionof such activities as screenplay development workshops, training initiatives,conferences and film festival events.

"Through a discovery of shared experience Babylon celebratesEurope's cultural diversity, a motor for European integration, an affirmationof solidarity between filmmakers across the continent," the founders said.

Following Locarno, the initiative will also be presentedat London's bfm International Film Festival in September when a Europe-widecall for projects will be launched. The names of the successful candidates fora project development workshop would then be announced at the Amiens FilmFestival in November.

According to Gareth Jones, the new venture is looking towin the support of the Berlin Film Festival for the staging of its firstfull-scale event during the festival next February. This event would include athree-day project development workshop for the selected projects; anetworking/pitching forum to introduce the films of cultural minorities topotential producers, co-producers, and distributors; and a one-day conferenceon the state of European cultural inclusion in the film world, open to all participantsat the Berlinale and others by invitation or application.

The programme would subsequently offer a follow-upsession for the workshop candidates and onward mentoring by experienced figureswithin the minority film community.

Citing the emergence of Fatih Akin in Germany, KarimDridi in France and Gurinder Chadha in the UK as new minorities arriving in themainstream, the progamme's architects concluded that "the aim of Babylon isto bring the richness of our cultural experience to all, to open up the wealthof individual experience to the majority who otherwise are left with littleidea of their neighbours. Only in the context of their shared European identitydo our minorities have a common experience to communicate, and that sharedEuropean identity involves us all."