The Dutch film sector has been dismayed by Deputy Culture Minister Halbe Zjilstra [pictured]’s response to last month’s “advice” from the Council of Culture on how 30% cuts in public funding should be achieved in the culture sector. Groups under threat include Binger Filmlab.

The Dutch coalition Government has set itself the target of reducing overall spending on culture from its current €900 million a year to €700 million by 2013.

Last month, the Council recommended that the cuts should be spread across the whole “culture infrastructure.” However, Zjilstra rejected this advice and advised that the cuts should fall most heavily on the institutions that have support roles rather than generate art directly.

As lobbying of the Dutch Parliament and Government intensifies, the fears of various Dutch film organisations and festivals over their futures are becoming ever more apparent.

Earlier this week, Cinekid (the Amsterdam-based festival for children that will be holding its 25th edition in October) send out a message to its supporters stating baldly “we need your help!” If Zjilstra’s recommendations are followed, the festival revealed that it stands to lose the major part of its funding and that its very future will come under threat.

Also under threat is the Amsterdam-based Binger Filmlab, the feature film and documentary development lab. It is expected that under the proposed cuts, all Government funding for post-academic schemes like Binger will dry up in 2013. Like CineKid, Binger is responding with a vigorous campaign including a letter to the State Secretary signed by top international and Dutch filmmakers and training execs (among them the UK’s Gillies Mackinnon and Hettie Macdonald.) As their letter states, “drastic cuts in funding would have a disastrous short and long-term negative impact both directly and in the global reputation of the Dutch film sector. This reputation once lost, would be extremely hard to retrieve.”

International promotion of Dutch film is another area that may come under threat. There is also a danger that Eye, the recently set up Institute for film in the Netherlands, will have to stop its distribution activities. That would have an obvious impact on art house distribution across Benelux. Bizarrely, Eye would still be able to acquire films for its collection but not to release them.

On a more positive note, Zjilstra seemed to endorse the idea of a “national” festival – which suggests that the Netherlands Film festival will continue to receive support (alongside the two big “international” festivals, Rotterdam and IDFA.)

“It’s all insane. It doesn’t make sense,” a well-placed observer stated of Zjilstra’s proposals for streamlining funding of arts funding.

The proposals are yet to pass through the Dutch Parliament and won’t come into force until 2013. There is therefore plenty of time to fight against the cuts.

“It’s a demolition,” one source suggested of the current proposals, adding that “in four years or six years, they (the Government) will have to start from scratch and build it (the culture sector) up again – and it will cost much more money.”