A “mental Iron Curtain” has formed between Western and Eastern Europe, according to Polish film director Agnieszka Holland.

In a keynote speech delivered at the From MEDIA to Creative Europe summit in Warsaw, Holland said: “Paradoxically, when Europe was divided, the mutual curiosity and the knowledge of our cultures was much bigger.

“It was then when we could talk genuinely about a European cinema and its wide distribution both in cinemas and on television.

“Today, more than in the times of the Cold War, we are dealing now with a mental - and not a political - Iron Curtain.

“During the last 20 years, one could very distinctly observe the paradox: the more Europe has been working economically and politically, the more its cultural bonds, mutual curiosity and the knowledge that comes from this, mutual concerns about problems, lives and preferences has dissipated.”

Holland expressed concern that more energy was being expended by European film-makers on budgetary issues and meeting the requirements of funding bodies  rather than seeking ways of cooperating creatively on projects. 

The director of Burning Bush, submitted by the Czech Republic for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, was voted as the European Film Academy’s new chairman last weekend, replacing Yves Marmion.

Other changes to the EFA board include UK producer Mike Downey and Spanish producer Antonio Saura being named deputy chairmen, replacing Volker Schloendorff and Nik Powell.

New additions to the board include Italian producer Roberto Cicutto, French producer Ilann Girard, Spanish producer Nadine Luque, UK director David MacKenzie and  Romanian producer Ada Solomon.

“Better level playing field”

Jan Truszczynski, the European Commission’s director general for education and culture, argued in a second keynote that the EC wants “to move towards a better level playing field between Member States”.

“We have always been wanting to do this, but, admittedly, what we have created until now is not level enough,” he said.

The Warsaw event was organised by MEDIA Desk Poland and the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage with 12 MEDIA Desks from the new EU Member States since 2004: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Truszczynski explained: “We have prepared a whole package of changes [in Creative Europe] to eliminate the existing obstacles and bring down the barriers for creative entrepreneurs from those countries and regions with low production capacity or which have a small linguistic territory.”

He pointed out that, in the MEDIA sub-programme’s development scheme “the automatic awards for low production capacity has been increased from two to ten points out of a maximum 100. For our new video games action, low capacity countries will benefit from an automatic five point bonus.

“We also have positive discrimination for new Member States with the funding criteria for festivals.”

Not cast in stone

Truszczynski continued: “We will have to take time to assess the impact of these changes so as to ensure that we strike the right balance between competitiveness, on the one hand,  and cultural diversity, on the other.

“The programme is not cast in stone, of course, flexibility is part of the game. As we look at the outcome of the first call of proposals and discuss with the Member States, we will of course be ready to adapt and change if necessary.

“There will be a fine-tuning of the programme and we will be evaluating as we go. Alterations will be made and also, possibly, including additional elements of positive discrimination.”

Commenting on the staging of this summit between the 12 new EU Member States since 2004, Truszczynski said: “When we heard of this conference, we said that this is a ‘must’ for the European Commission.”

He added that the event was also “very well timed” coming just after the first calls for proposals were launched on Tuesday evening  by the Brussels-based Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).

The first calls published for Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme so far are for selective distribution, television programming, festivals, and development for single projects and slate funding.

The guidelines and calls for the other seven actions will be issued later this month.