With the conflict between Ukraine and neighbouring Russia escalating over the weekend, the organisers of the Odessa International Film Festival (OIFF) have reaffirmed their determination to stage the fifth edition from July 11-19.

“We will do everything possible for it to happen,” the festival declared in a communiqué, explaining that “while grieving for the deceased [on the Maidan Square in Kiev], we must think about the future”.

In response to the events of the past weeks, OIFF’s 2014 line-up will include films about the role of civil society in Ukraine and in the world.

“2014 is going to be a difficult year, so the festival will run without any unnecessary glitz,” the festival observed. “All the efforts will be focused on maintaining the festival’s international level and selecting a top-quality line-up.”

OIFF’s international profile has been given a boost by an Advisory Board consisting of Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg’s Kirsten Niehuus, Unifrance’s Joël Chapron, the Israel Film Fund’s Katriel Schory, German Films’ Simone Baumann, and Russian film-maker Valery Todorovsky - one of the producers of last year’s Grand Prix winner The Geographer Drank His Globe Away by Alexander Veledinsky.

Ukraine on agenda of two Berlin conferences on the role of culture in the future of the Europe

The current situation in Ukraine was also addressed at two major gatherings of European artists, intellectuals, scientists and politicians in Berlin at the weekend and today (Monday).

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso were key speakers at a general assembly to draft a new narrative for Europe for all citizens.

Speaking on Saturday at an event in Berlin’s Academy of Arts  to launch a declaration on this narrative, Barroso commented directly on the events in Ukraine and Crimea, stressing that ¨diversity can not be solved by separation and segregation. History has shown us that security does not come from building more walls or fences, but by embracing and intergrating the differences. We need cooperation, not confrontation; we need more convergence, not more conflicts. This is what the European Union stands for. These are the values Europe will defend.¨

According to declaration on ¨The Mind and Body of Europe¨, ¨ Europe as a political body needs to recognise the value of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Looking back, Europe’s heritage was forged not only across generations, but also across communities and territories. Cultural heritage reveals what it has meant to be a European throughout time. It is a powerful instrument that provides a sense of belonging amongst and between European citizens.¨

¨ Europe as a political body must deploy fully its ‘soft power’ not only across the continent, but also beyond its borders to make it a respectful and respected international partner, promoting a new global model of society, based on ethical, aesthetic and sustainable values.¨

Wenders criticises official Europe’s attitude to the place and role of culture

Meanwhile, today’s “A Soul of Europe” conference (Monday) was held just 50 metres from the Brandenburg Gate with speakers including José Manuel Barroso, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Hungarian writer György Konrad, German Greens MEP Rebecca Harms, and Wim Wenders, just back from Canada where he has wrapped shooting on his first feature film in 3D, Every Thing Will Be Fine.

In an opening address, Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, proposed that the conference participants should consider drafting a declaration of solidarity to the people of Ukraine, including their artists, intellectuals and scientists.

In a first debate between artists and European political leaders, Wenders - who was born in 1945 - said that his child’s dream of becoming a European had been realised, but the Europe of today with its bureaucracy and regulations was not the vision of Europe he had hoped for.

He clashed with Luxembourg’s ex Prime-Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and the candidate for the European People’s Party for the European Commission presidency at the forthcoming European elections in May, criticising the lack of a real exchange and openness by the European Commission to the continent’s creative and culture sector.

“The present arrangement cannot and should not remain a technical and economic enterprise,” he declared.

“Whenever Europe is in dire straits and eveything is going down the drain, Europe sometimes calls its artists, intellectuals and film-makers to help [its] image. I can’t help believing that we always remain the fig leaf. Between us, the cultural basis, and the European government, there is no institutionalised connection. We are not regulars in Brussels, we are occasional guests, but we are never sitting at the table. We are bystanders, onlookers, an ornament.”

“Culture is always looked on as the icing on the cake, never as part of the cake, let alone the cake itself,” Wenders suggested.