Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Funding World Cinema…Culture?
September 25, 2007, 8:45 pm
Filed under: philippine cinema, propositions

Any filmmaker worth his salt will tell you that the audience that means the most to him are those whose feet tread the same soil.

Continuing the train of thought set out by the previous post…

There are a number of European Film Festivals that provide funding for films coming from “Developing Countries” (sorry Singapore!): Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund (annual budget: 1.2M Euro), Goteborg Film Fund (budged not listed on website), Berlin’s World Cinema Fund (500,000 Euro), and (for documentary projects) International Documentary Festival Amsterdam’s Jan Vrijman Fund (360,000 Euro) to name but a few examples.

For the sake of discussion, let’s limit ourselves to the Hubert Bals Fund– as they appear to be the largest funding agency, and films from the Philippines– as it is where I reside:

Projects supported in the 90’s, but never completed:
Miserere Nobis, Lino Brock, 1991 (of course, Lino passed away, a fair reason)
Makapili, Raymond Red, 1993
Senor Pertierra’s Dream Machine, Nick Deocampo, 1994
The Birth of an Island, Grace Ambilangsa, 1997

Projects hat have received grants recently but remain to finished:
Moro2Moro Maharlika 2Moro, John Torres
Years When I was Father’s Child Outside, John Torres
EDSA XXX, Khavn De la Cruz
Mondomanila: How I Fixed My Hair After a Really long Journey, Khavn De la Cruz
Now Showing (former tite: Glint of an Alley in a Rush), Raya Martin

Supported projects that have been finished:
The Family That Eats Soil, Khavn De la Cruz, 2004
A Short Film About the Indio Nacional, Raya Martin, 2005
Heremias, Book One, Lav Diaz, 2006
Balikbayan Box, Ramon Mes De Guzman
Death in the Land of Encantos, Lav Diaz, 2007

One must be extremely grateful that these institutions exist, most especially given the chances that they take with the films they fund. Gertjan Zuilhof, a member of the Hubert Bals Fund team (herein referred to as HBF), says that part of the reason for a fund such as this, is to provide preliminary funding for audacious films that otherwise may not get made. That is the risk, he concedes, and therefore it is only naturally that some of the films that they support will not get made.

To prove the chances that they take you need only look at the honor roll of projects by Filipino filmmakers from the 90’s that received grants but were never completed.

It is wonderful that there is support for these films and projects, but there are questions that linger: what happens once the films are finished their tours of festivals? How are they received at home, by local audiences?

While more than likely none of the completed films would turn in earth-shattering numbers at the box office in the Philippines, they certainly all deserve a larger audience than they’ve received thus far, and certainly a healthier level of discourse, that is, if there has been any form of discourse at all. To give an example: There have been more shallow articles have been written about Lav Diaz as a personality in Philippine magazines and newspapers than there have been screenings of his trilogy– Batang West Side, Evolution of a Filipino Family, and Heremias, Book One— and this includes screenings of the film that have happened in Universities and Cafes.

As it stands, these grant-giving bodies are funding sophisticated cinema from developing countries (a noble act), but without encouraging the development of an audience for them in these countries.

Herein do we suggest an idea:

Could not, say, a modest portion of 5% of the (roughly) 1.2 Million Euro that the HBF distributes annually go toward support for the enrichment of film culture in the countries whose cinema they support? That 5% portion (in effect, 60,000 Euros), put towards various film journals or workshops for young and aspiring critics, would certainly go a long, long way toward improving (or in some countries establishing) a film culture.

If the concern of the HBF, as per their mandate, is to provide support for the artist, to encourage a more vibrant film culture in the filmmakers country of origin is not exactly out of place (HBF does for example provide up to 15,000 Euros for distribution of the film in its country of origin), in fact, it would seem like the next logical step in the process. There are few greater forms of support a filmmaker can receive than to be appreciated and respected in the place where he works.

9 Comments so far
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Hi Alexis,

Any news on Kidlat Tahimik’s unfinished Magellan film? Will he ever finish it?

Comment by Oggs Cruz

One certainly wishes it would get finished, Oggs. Last I spoke to Kidlat about it he didn’t seem very positive (as you may know, his Magellan has passed away, and he has yet to shoot Magellan’s death scene). He always speaks about it lightly, sometimes proposing that animation might be the answer, sometimes jesting that maybe his children will have the task of finishing it after he passes.

Comment by Alexis

Interesting article. My digital feature film SUDDHA (The Cleansing Rites) won an exhibition grant from HBF in 2006. It is a film in a language called Tulu, a lesser known south Indian language. The grant covers costs that covers the expenses that is needed to show the film in the remote areas where the language is spoken. I should say that it did encouraging the development of an audience in the area.

Comment by ramchandra

Hi Ramchandra, thank you for your comment. It’s excellent to hear that the grant enabled you to exhibit your feature in the areas where the language is spoken.

I stand corrected in my phrasing of the sentence, which sounds rather absolute, that they are not encouraging this development of a local audience, as they clearly are, in one way. Perhaps it would have been better to have stated explicitly that the wish is for the HBF or similar programs to institutionalize support for workshops or publications related to criticism from the countries they give grants to.

Comment by Alexis

I understand you Alexis. Even in India there are a few such funded films which people don’t know of or haven’t seen. institutionalize support for workshops or publications related to criticism would do go a long way in developing a local audience.

Comment by ramchandra

Dear Alexis,

I read your piece with great interest. Since it is about the HBF, which I am part of and as well that I am nicely quoted. The arguments were not all new for me since we discussed it in the past. To start with the conclusion: if you come up with a good and concrete plan for a project that will stimulate local film criticism I am quite sure this will be eligible under the wide idea of distribution and workshop funding.
That said I have to add the we do not support workshops automatically year after year. However, as start up funding or funding of special projects it has worked on many occasions.
But I do see your point. Support of serious writing on films is a thing of the long run, but it should not prevent us from starting.

Gertjan Zuilhof (HBF, advisor)

Comment by Gertjan Zuilhof

Dear Gertjan,

I had been planning to send you a link to this entry. I’m glad that you found it. Thank you very much for reading and for your kind and helpful comments.

I do see that support for serious writing is something whose effects may not be seen immediately, but believe that it could prove quite valuable in that long run which you speak of.

There does not appear to be on the IFFR-HBF website instructions or a list of requirements with regard to workshop funding. Might you know what pertinent information would be necessary to include in an application?

The idea that I would love to pursue (and to see pursued in other territories) is a regional workshop on criticism. A short school of sorts, that would combine lectures, discussions and screenings with writing exercises.

I appreciate the opportunity and exposure to festival writing that I was given in attending the Berlinale Talent Press, though I feel that a more concentrated activity discussing different forms of criticism, taking into consideration the local contexts, would be a worthwhile pursuit.

Comment by Alexis

Dear Alexis,

Just a brief response. For more details on how to apply for workshop funding at the HBF we better communicate one to one.
The workshops we funded in the past were quite often organized in close collaboration with the fund and a strong partner in the country where the workshop should take place. Ideally, more partners and funding bodies are involved.
In principle, there is not that much difference with applying for distribution or even a film. A well written text about the idea to seduce the committee, clear information on how, what where and why and convincing budget figures should do it.



Comment by Gertjan Zuilhof

Dear Gertjan,
Thank you again. I shall e-mail you shortly.

Comment by Alexis

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