International colleagues have expressed concern at the news that Kateryna Kopylova, head of the Ukrainian State Film Agency since December 2010, was forced to resign her post at the end of last week.

According to the Ukrainian news agency LB, the resignation had been tendered by Kopyleva “by mutual agreement”.

This development comes after the Maidan Square protestors took over Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and appointed actor Evgeny Nishchuk as the new Minister of Culture.

Since then, the various professional associations have initiated an “open discussion” about the future of the Film Agency. A source in Kiev told ScreenDaily that the current situation is “a mess” with people bringing their own particular opinions and demands.

The Association of Producers of Ukraine (APU) was even forced to remove and distance itself from comments made by its CEO Denis Maslikov on it’s website.

The present vacuum at the Film Agency is also likely to pose a problems for productions which were expecting production funding to be paid out for shoots scheduled this year.

Question mark over Sevastopol festival

Political efforts to de-escalate tensions in the region will determine whether the international film festival in the Crimean port of Sevastopol will be affected.

Igor Gouskov, formerly one of the team at Vologda’s VOICES film festival for young European cinema, had told ScreenDaily during this year’s Berlinale that he will serve as programme director for the Sevastopol International Film Festival.

As the festival’s website indicated today (Wed), the 2014 edition is scheduled to run from Sept 19-24.

Kusturica supports Russian Ukrainians

Serbian film director Emir Kusturica has spoken out in support of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine during a tour of his band, The No Smoking Orchestra, in Russia.

Speaking to the ITAR-TASS news agency in the Volga region’s city of Samara, Kusturica said: “Unfortunately, Ukraine is following the Yugoslav scenario, and I regret it. I see the same kind of catastrophe. I think that Russia should protect ethnic Russians residing in Ukraine.”

During the concert when he spoke English and Russian, Kusturica and his band dedicated the famous military march Farewell of Slavianka by the Soviet conductor and composer Vasily Agapkin to “our Russian brothers in Ukraine”.

Creative Europe slams door on Switzerland

The European Union’s Creative Europe programme has slammed the door on participation by the Swiss creative and culture sectors in its MEDIA and Culture sub-programmes this year.

Isabelle Chassot, the Federal Office of Culture’s (BAK) new director, told Swiss newspaper Le Matin at the weekend that a letter had been received last Friday (Feb 28) from Brussels confirming that participation in MEDIA will not be possible for 2014 and “[we] are in a period of uncertainty from 2015.”

Chassot expressed the hope that Switzerland would be able to re-join MEDIA “during the period 2014-2020.”

For the time being, the Swiss film industry will be one of the sectors that suffers from the fallout after the February referendum result to introduce greater restrictions on immigration into Switzerland.

On average, CHF 7.5m ($8.5m) had been made available by the Swiss Federal Government as its so-called “entry fee” paid to the EU’s MEDIA Programme since becoming a member in 2006.

This year will also be one of transition for certain sectors of the Swiss industry. For example, leading international documentary film festival Visions du Réel in Nyon will receive €120,000 ($165,000) from MEDIA for its Doc Outlook International Market as part of a three-year framework partnership agreement for supporting market access.

But organisers will have to look elsewhere to fund this market from 2015.

Similarly, internationally respected training body FOCAL was allocated around €180,000 ($250,000) for three continous training projects for 2014 - Digital Production Challenge; Production Value; and MEDICI – The Film Funding Journey -  and €68,000 ($93,000) for SUPSI’s i-Documentary project development workshop.

On the other hand, an initiative like Locarno’s Industry Days, which received €40,000 ($55,000) support from MEDIA last year, will have to look for alternative sources of funding for the 2014 edition in August.

This week, MEDIA Desk Suisse and BAK announced that they are “evaluating temporary solutions which would enable Swiss film-makers as far as possible to retain their networks and the possibilities of participating in European projects.”

It has already been confirmed that Swiss film-makers wanting to participate in continuous training projects supported by MEDIA will be able to apply to a specially dedicated fund.

A total of CHF 60,000 ($68,000)  is made available by BAK to meet up to 50% of the costs – and a maximum of CHF 15,000 ($17,000) in each case - for attendance to a training course.

Pressure on Eurimages’ budget

One of the likely knock-on effects of the exclusion of Switzerland from Creative Europe will be applications now coming from Swiss distributors and cinemas to Strasbourg-based Eurimages for support from its albeit limited distribution and exhibition funding programmes.

The pan-European funder, which is supposed to be welcoming Armenia and Ukraine into its ranks this year, could provide a kind of stopgap for the Swiss industry while negotiations (hopefully) begin with Brussels on hammering out a solution to the problems caused by the anti-immigration referendum.

However, the popularity of European films with Swiss distributors – 14 companies generated over €1m ($1.37m) MEDIA automatic distribution support based on their release of non-national European films in 2012 – could pose a real challenge to Eurimages’ finances, not to speak of the funding needed by the Swiss members of the Europa Cinemas network.