Mila Turajlic, Fabrice Puchault, Bero Beyer, Orwa Nyrabia at the Being Europe, seeing Europe IDFA talk

Source: Melle Meivogel

Mila Turajlic, Fabrice Puchault, Bero Beyer, Orwa Nyrabia at the Being Europe, seeing Europe IDFA talk

Film funding biases and blind spots came under fire at the main session of the Europe Conference, part of the industry talks programme at IDFA (November 9-20).

One issue highlighted by speakers at the panel, titled ‘Being Europe, seeing Europe’ and hosted by ARTE yesterday, was the current red tape requirements surrounding European film funding applications, something leading Serbian director Mila Turajlic referred to as the “European maladie of bureaucracy.”

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest MEDIA applications but they are atrocious,” said Turajlic, whose latest film Ciné-Guerrillas: Scenes From The Labudović Reels has been screening at IDFA. “With the most progressive desires of gender parity, green [support], they’re introducing these rules. I actually think the heroes of this story are European producers because it is an incredibly complex system to navigate.” 

She argued the system is “resulting in the same types of films. European cinema viewed from afar is super-homogenous and not that exciting in that sense… It takes a certain education and speaking that language to [be] getting those grants…there is a certain class of people who are making films in Europe.”

The bottom line, suggested Fabrice Puchault, head of society and culture department at ARTE, is that “even making documentaries in France” is the “privilege of a certain class. Because of that, we don’t have access to certain realities.” If you’re working class or unemployed, Puchault, suggested, your story won’t be told. “It’s a class problem.”

These observations were endorsed by Bero Beyer, head of the Netherlands Film Fund.

“When you use the word ‘Europe,’ you use the word ‘bureaucracy.’ They go together like carrots and peas somehow,” Beyer said. “It’s actually horrendous and I don’t want to burden you with it but too much of my time goes into that crap.”

Beyer drew a stark contrast between the complex application processes of European film funders and the simplicity offered by the streamers, who’ll often make a decision in “five minutes.”

The Netherlands Film Fund has now committed to responding to all applications, whether negatively or positively, within a month. “We’re faster, quicker and more precise whether we’ll say yes or no.”

The Fund is also trying to reach beyond the “homogenous group of over-privileged people even within the Netherlands who have been the dominant force of getting funding.” 

Beyer acknowledged that the Fund wasn’t “doing a good enough job” in reaching other parts of the community and widening the talent pool. That is why it has launched its new Cypher cinema scheme aimed at filmmakers from different ethnic, cultural or regional background. Filmmakers are allowed to make their application in any way they want - and aren’t judged on the basis of how well they can navigate the application system.

“Two-tiered” system

Turajlic made pointed observations about the “two-tiered” nature of Europe and how that is reflected in film funding.

“I still feel there are two Europes, a western Europe and an eastern Europe,” she said. “There is always this idea that you have too many eastern European stories and so you definitely feel that… there is a first class and a second class cabin in the European ship.” 

However, the award-winning director also added that “there is a feeling of access - access to audiences, to publics, to subjects and to financing which I would say on the whole is a very positive thing.”

Giving a western European perspective, Beyer spoke of the counter-productive effect of many of European national public funders’ policies. He referred to measures which have “the opposite effect of what they try to do… like expenditure obligations, or the need to have to travel to access certain funding, regional funding that requires you to spend 200% of what you could get.”

These regulations, the Film Fund boss pointed out, have “nothing to do with creating great cinema in any shape or form.”

Beyer also highlighted the chronic delays from European organisations in offering proper support to the beleaguered Ukrainian film industry.

“It’s horrible almost to see how slow the movement is…obviously, there needs to be something done about the Ukrainian film industry at this time,” Beyer said. “[But] people quickly hide behind bureaucratic regulations, [saying] this is all that we can do.” He called on funders “just to jump over those hoops.”

Hosting the session, IDFA artistic director Orwa Nyrabia noted the creative challenges that the European co-production system presents to filmmakers.

“I’ve heard many filmmakers talk about [the fact that] they can’t even work again with their favourite French cinematographer because the best co-production necessitates that they get a new cinematographer they’ve never worked with from another country… they have worked years to build their own team but the co-production system doesn’t allow that.”

However, Turajlic countered that the imposition of rules is not necessarily a bad thing. “I was imposed by the financing structure of my previous film to have an editor in France,” she said. “It actually really enhanced the quality of my film because it brought in a perspective that knew nothing of the background of my story. It really enriched the quality of the storytelling.”