Arab women filmmakers will be one of the key priorities in a new European Union-backed initiative, the MedFilm Programme, for the South Mediterranean countries from Morocco to Syria.

The Programme would be financed under the auspices of the European Neighbourhood Instrument, with €4.5m coming from EU funds and €875,000 as third party contributions, to start operations from next year.

MedFilm’s key activities would be to:

  • promote participation and involvement of women in the film industry;

  • support the access to the market, both south-south and across the Mediterranean, of films;

  • support the audience development for films tackling social issues, including gender issues, on a regional level;

  • communicate about the programme and facilitate the access to south Mediterranean film professionals to opportunities offered by the EU funded projects - such as Creative Europe’s MEDIA Sub-Programme - and other donors.

The programme will be open to short and feature-length fiction films, short and feature-length documentaries, animation as well as TV series and soap operas.

According to the Commission’s action document: “MedFilm aims to reach out with alternative messages to counter discourses coming from fundamentalist/radical groups, open the space for the less heard voices of society, such as women and youth, as well as promote the involvement of women in the film sector.”

In addition, the new initiative will work to “fight stereotypes through fostering the exchange of films across the Mediterranean; and promote freedom of expression by allowing film makers to tackle sensitive issues on a regional level – thus combatting traditional or new forms of censorship.”

Image of women

The document noted that “the image of women shown in films is usually based on gender-based stereotypes”, but this programme would be “an opportunity for allowing professional filmmakers to pass on different messages that will help improving the portrayal of women and contribute to reduce to stereotypes.”

The architects of the MedFilm initiative point out that “the lack of professionalization of women working in cinema also contributes negatively to their image” and that, in the Arab world’s male-dominated film sector, Arab women have many difficulties in developing their own projects despite their skills and creativity.

In addition, the MedFilm programme will “also tackle other issues such as extremism/fundamentalism, gender, youth and will need to strongly cooperate with initiatives in this sector at regional and bilateral levels in order to understand the specificity of these areas of development but also to influence these programmes by involving the film industry in their programmes.”


The European Parliament (EP) took notice of the European filmmakers’ growing concerns about reforms to the regulations for geoblocking and territoriality when the MEPs voted on the copyright report by the German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda in Strasbourg on Thursday (July 9).

Reda’s report aimed to give non-binding guidelines to the European Commission (EC) on the EP’s stand on copyright for consideration in the EC’s own proposals for new copyright laws by the end of this year.

The approved version of the report, with 445 votes to 65 with 32 abstentions, pointed out that “the financing, production and co-production of films and television content depend to a great extent on exclusive territorial licences granted to local distributors on a range of platforms reflecting the cultural specificities of the various markets in Europe.”

The MEPs therefore called on the EC “to ensure that any initiative to modernise copyright is preceded by a wide-ranging study of its likely impact on the production, financing and distribution of films and television content, and also on cultural diversity.”

Moreover, the report stated that the EP “supports the initiatives aimed at enhancing the portability, within the EU, of online services of legally acquired and legally made available content, whilst fully respecting copyright and the interests of rightholders” and acknowledged “the importance of territorial licences in the EU, particularly with regard to audiovisual and film production which is primarily based on broadcasters’ pre-purchase or pre-financing systems.”

Speaking at the beginning of the plenary debate, Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that “a  European market without national territorial borders must be the principle, and portability without borders as well.”


At the same time, he stressed that the Commission would be aiming for “a balance”between the users and copyright holders in these deliberations on a digital single market and reiterated his stance towards the film industry, which appears to be in direct contradiction to the line taken by his fellow Commissioner, Vice-President Andrus Ansip.

Oettinger declared: “Europe’s film industry would not be viable if there was only one single market and the principle of territoriality disappeared from one day to the next.”

“The European cinema is built on language areas and the national film funding programmes that it draws upon. But if it was subjected overnight to just one European market, Hollywood, Bollywood Google and Amazon would sweep this European cinema away,” he argued.

Oettinger stressed that he would be aiming for greater portability of content, but not dispense with the principle of territoriality in his modernisation of the copyright law.

In a first reaction to the MEPs’ vote, Cécile Despringre, executive director of the Society of Audiovisual Authors, remarked that “we know this resolution has had a long and difficult path to adoption, but every side seems to defend the importance of authors receiving fair remuneration but fails to put forward any concrete proposals to correct current failings.”

“The Commission mustn’t fall into the same trap. A legislative proposal on authors’ rights has to include something for authors,” she said.

“Explicit” exclusion of audiovisual in TTIP

In another plenary vote a day earlier (July 8), MEPS had approved recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the USA.

In the section on market access, the EP called on the Commission to ensure “via a legally binding general clause applicable to the entire agreement” that the parties would “reserve their right to adopt or maintain any measure with respect to the protection or promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity.”

The MEPs also stressed  that “the mandate given to the European Commission by the Member States explicitly excludes the audiovisual services” and that “nothing in the agreement shall affect the ability of the EU or EU Member States to subsidise and provide financial support to cultural industries and cultural, educational, audiovisual and press services.”