I received an e-mail with some distressing news recently from our friends in Slovenia, regarding the Ministry of Culture’s decision to completely cut all funding for their festival, Isola Cinema. The news became even more painful to take when after reading of the details leading up to the Ministry’s decision. I will post the letter below.
I had the pleasure of attending the festival last year and it is truly one of the most inspiring film festivals that I have been to: combining an atmosphere of warmth and community with a genuine and discerning love for cinema; something increasingly rare in the festival world these days. Every city should be so lucky to have a festival in its vein.
In support of Isola, and for the benefit of readers, I’ll post transcriptions of some Q&A sessions I recorded during Isola Cinema 2007 in the coming weeks. Discussions with Abderrahmane Sissako, Boris Lehman, Jacqueline Veuve, OM Productions, Nicholas Rey, as well as Slovenian filmmaker and festival co-founder Vlado Skafar’s introduction to his Silvan’s Sine School programme. For now, here is the letter:
Intercultural dialogue: »Cultural Policy« Slovenian Style
We would like to draw your attention to the last episode in what seems to be a systematic and persistent governmental policy of trying to root out film culture in Slovenia.
The proposal of the Slovenian Film Fund TO CUT ALL FUNDING for the Isola Cinema festival –with the argument that “its content is inappropriate for co-financing”– is not only a gross injustice, it is also an insult to film culture, to culture, to intercultural dialogue, as well as to the respect for the legal system of the EU presiding state.
Allow me to demonstrate:
Kino Otok/Isola Cinema is an annual international film festival, that in its four years of existence “has been building a formidable reputation”, as Kieron Corless wrote in Sight & Sound last year. He concluded his festival-report with calling Isola Cinema “a well nigh-perfect festival”.
All of the directors who have attended the festival have spoken fondly and enthusiastically of Isola Cinema. Everybody –to name just a few of them: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Abderrahmane Sissako, Lav Diaz, Abolfazl Jalili, Mika Kaurismäki, Christopher Coppola, Shaji Karun, Pablo Trapero, Lisandro Alonso, Girish Kasaravalli, Peter Mettler, Roger Gnoam M’Bala, Valeska Grisebach— have expressed their sincere wish to return to the “Island of Cinema”. There is ample evidence to prove that the Isola Cinema festival has an impeccable reputation when it comes to both public appreciation and critical acclaim.
For the past four years the municipality of Izola and the Slovenian Film Fund have underlined the significance of this festival by financially supporting it.
On January 16th 2008 the acting director of the Slovenian Film Fund, Mr. Igor Prodnik, sent the festival a letter informing it about the results of its application for financial support for the 5th edition of Isola Cinema. The commission who assessed the festival’s application gave the project 99 out of 100 points. The commission concluded that “with the Isola Cinema festival the applicant has kept on demonstrating that it is a strong and on programme-quality-based festival-event, making it one of the important film events in Slovenia. In evidence of this we state the exceptional popularity of the festival with the film experts, as well as with the numerous foreign guests of the festival, and with the Slovene and foreign public, which responds to it with an ever-increasing interest. The commission unanimously proposes that the Isola Cinema festival should be supported as much as possible”.
Based on the commission’s report, the available funds and the order of precedence by which the application had been received Mr. Prodnik proposed to co-finance the 5th edition with an amount of 10.000 EUR.
Since this represented a cut of nearly 50% (in 2007, the Film Fund decided in the end October to support the festival –that took place in May-June earlier that year—with an amount of 19.800 EUR) the festival wrote a letter of protest within the procedurally approved term of three days, asking the commission to reconsider their decision.
We did not receive any reply to our letter of protest.
Instead another commission was appointed (this time presided by Mr. Jambrek, current head of the Programme Dept. of Slovenska kinoteka/Slovenian Cinematheque) who reassessed our application and came to an entirely different conclusion.
On April 8th, the –very same– acting director of the Slovenian Film Fund, Mr. Igor Prodnik, wrote the festival another letter with as heading: “This letter replaces the letter of January 16th 2008”. It informed us that the new score given by the new commission was considerably lower. Instead of 99, the new commission gave the same application a score of 74,34 on 100. The conclusion read: “The members of the commission have the opinion that despite its relative media recognition, the content of the project is inappropriate for co-financing”.
Cutting all national funding of Isola Cinema severely jeopardizes the future of one of the most important international film festivals in Slovenia.
Since Isola Cinema is a film festival that has “intercultural dialogue” on top of its agenda, we consider this decision to be an insult to the mere idea of intercultural dialogue. This is all the more painful, considering that 2008 is the “European Year of Intercultural Dialogue”, and considering that this is happening in the country currently presiding the European Union.
As the procedure described above illustrates (including –to call it euphemistically— “highly irregular” practices, such as changing a selection commission in mid-procedure; sending out two different commission-reports with very different results in response to the very same call; not responding for nearly 3 months to procedurally approved terms of protest), we also believe that this is an insult to the mere idea of legality. It is the exact opposite of transparency of cultural policy.
As with the previous letter by the Slovenian Film Fund, we have –of course– also this time immediately sent a letter of protest to Mr. Prodnik and CC-ed it to the Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti.
We sincerely hope the decision will be reconsidered. However, based on the way Isola Cinema has been treated in this procedure, it looks like a lot of pressure will be needed to be able to reverse that decision.
Therefore we would like to ask you to spread this information to the Minister of Culture of your country, or to everyone who –and every institution that– could possibly put pressure on those who could reverse that unfair decision:
Igor Prodnik – email@example.com – acting director of the Slovenian Film Fund of the Republic of Slovenia & Director-General of the Directorate for Media at the Ministry of Culture
Dr. Vasko Simoniti – firstname.lastname@example.org – Minister of Culture
Janez Janša – email@example.com – Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia
Koen Van Daele
Director Isola Cinema
PS: we would appreciate if you could also CC any letters of protest to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Isola Cinema has a special relationship with the Philippines, having had as guests in 2006 the trio of Lav Diaz (screened: Heremias, Hesus Rebolusyonaryo), Raya Martin (screened: A Short Film About the Indio Nacional, The Island at the End of the World), and Khavn De la Cruz (performing a live piano score for the screening of Indio, which brought some members of the audience to tears), and having screened last year Brillante Mendoza’s Manoro, and in 2005 Joyce Bernal’s Mr. Sauve (in a programme done in cooperation with Udine Far East Film Festival).
On this page are collected letters from the international film community regarding the situation.
[Click here to listen to or download the audio file discussed below, the February 10, 1938 “The March of Time” radio newsreel, which features the re-enactment of a story concerning a Filipina “washerwoman” turned golfer, Dominga Capati. The voice talent playing Capati speaks in a curious Spanish-accented English. On another note, the file also includes Orson Welles providing the voice of Hitler, which begins at minute 20:25. Thank you to Wellesnet for providing the link and I believe uploading the file.]
“Tonight LIFE, the weekly magazine of pictures, joins TIME, the weekly news magazine, in presenting by radio the re-enactment of memorable scene from the news of the week! From the March of Time!”
“The Philippine Island! This week in Manila comes the climax of a story which begins on a corner of the Calamba Sugar Estate, bordering the Manila Golf Course, where Filipino washerwoman Dominga Capati is scrubbing clothes as a caddy approaches her.”
– “Hey! Hey! Did you see a golf ball come out this way?”
– “What? What that little white ball they hit around over there?”
– “Yes. Did you see it?”
– “No I did not. And if you ask me, a sensible people ought to find something better to do with their time, then a walk around in the hot sun, hit a ball, go and look for it. Hit it again. Foolishness.”
– “Ah, easy to talk when you’ve never tried it.”
– “Try it?! Huh! If I did, I would hit it harder than those big fat men! Those women with their little thin arms.”
– “Ah, you could not even hit the ball.”
– “Oh, you think so huh? Alright. Just put a ball down on the ground there. Go ahead, put the ball down on the ground. Now give me one of those esticks… now, stand back out of my way… THERE! … now get along and don’t bother me, I have got work to do.”
– “Hey, wait. Let me see you do that again.”
–“Okay.” [swings again]
– “Two hundred and fifty yards! Here, try another.”
[swings again; then cue music]
“Two years ago, husky Dominga Capati swung her first golf club, hit her first golf ball. This week in the roster of entries in the Manila Women’s Open Golf Tournament … Capati, Dominga. Age 25. Nationality: Philippine. Club Affiliation: None. Occupation: Washerwoman.” [cue music]
“The opening day of the tournament. Up to the first tee steps Dominga Capati, only native Philippine entry in the match. She tees up her ball, looks once down the fairway; Swings! [cue audience “ohhhh”, followed by applause]”
“The Second Day. A Cheering crowd is following Dominga Capati. Two strokes ahead of the field as she tees up for her 35th hole.”
[swinging sound; audience applause]
“The Final Day. Dominga Capati is four strokes ahead of her nearest competitor– Socialite Jean Morgan– as she prepares to put on the seventy second and final hole of the tournament.”
“Quiet please! Quiet for Senorita Capati.”
[sound of sinking ball in hole. audience cheers]
“This week, New Open Golf champions the Philippine Islands as washerwoman Dominga Capati finishing five strokes ahead of her nearest rival. The first Filipino ever to win a golf championship. And at weeks end, back at her washboard, says champion Capati:
– ” I get driving muscles…scrubbing up and down like this. And my wrists? Ringing out the clothes– like this. And the putting? Well that just a seems to come naturally.”
“1938– Marches On!”
On March 11-13, 2008, the 41st Dominga Capati Memorial Tournament was held at Canlubang Golf & Country Club (South Course).
link: “Backstairs Golfer”: brief New York Times article on Capati dated February 14, 1938.
(This is the fourth in an ongoing series of posts that will chronicle, as objectively as possible, curious references to Filipinos or the Philippines in internationally produced art or writing. The reason for doing this, I am of yet unaware. But there is an impulse. They are filed under the category Philippine Chronicle.)
Filed under: Philippine Chronicle, notes | Tags: ken jacobs, philippines, edison films, actualities, found footage
Harry Kreisler: A couple of your films are more political than others. In one you use some old footage on the Philippines to make a point. Talk a little about that film and how this format for your art is tied to a real historical experience.
Ken Jacobs: Well, the work is called The Philippines Adventure, and I hit upon a little film purporting to be the history of America’s relationship to the Philippines. It was just a little propaganda piece and I used it almost intact, essentially to mock it. To bring out things that were there. The work is essentially my horror at what this piece of imperialism has been.
HK: What is the potential of film to shape our moral imagination?
KJ: Moral imagination?
KJ: Well, that sounds like propaganda.
HK: Why is it like propaganda?
KJ: Well you know, somebody’s morals …
HK: So “moral” is the bad word there?
KJ: I’m very involved with morality, and of course I think we are struggling, a lot of us, towards doing right. Being able to live with ourselves, being able to respect ourselves. But essentially, as I said before, I think that the deeper opportunity, the greater opportunity film can offer us is as an exercise of the mind. But an exercise, I hate to use the word, I won’t say “soul,” I won’t say “soul” and I won’t say “spirit,” but that it can really put our deepest psychological existence through stuff. It can be a powerful exercise. It can make us think, but I don’t mean think about this and think about that. The very, very process of powerful thinking, in a way that it can afford, is I think very, very valuable. I basically think that the mind is not complete yet, that we are working on creating the mind. Okay. And that the higher function of art for me is its contribution to the making of mind.
HK: And making mind, on the one hand, by disorienting it so it sort of has a sense of itself. And beyond that, what else?
KJ: Well in some cases also mindfulness. Mindfulness, in the case of The Philippines Adventure of American imperialism, you know, American self glorification, self-mythologizing. So there are things where you also want to create mindfulness, but it’s of lesser value than this primary thing of keeping the mind alive. And there’s lots against keeping the mind alive. We are surrounded, inundated, with bullshit. Okay. From almost everywhere. Advertising, which is a euphemism for lying. This government of lawyers who are working for people who pay them to go out and be on television and be ingratiating and get votes. They go to the lawyers, and they lie. And all of this just eats up the mind and makes us stupid. And stupid is also moving away from existence. We lose a hold on existence.
Making Light of History: The Philippines Adventures, 1983, (90 min.)
Has anyone seen this film? Or know what footage Jacobs used?
I wonder if it some it may be this:
U.S. Troops and Red Cross in the Trenches Before Caloocan
Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan
Colonel Funstan Swimming the Baglag River
Filipinos Retreat from Trenches
Capture of Trenches at Candaba
…and I also wonder if it has ever been shown in the Philippines?
A number of the same Edison clips are seen in still another extremely interesting work. Though produced in 1995, I was only introduced to it this year (thanks to brilliant programming at Cinema du Reel) and it has moved and affected me more than any other film I have seen for the first time in 2008. This is Marlon Fuentes’ Bontoc Eulogy, and I have a feeling I will be writing much, much more about it in the near future.
(1) Peter Lorre
(2) Vic Diaz