Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Intercultural dialogue: »Cultural Policy« Slovenian Style
April 25, 2008, 6:04 am
Filed under: festivals | Tags:

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
– – 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 – – Minister of Culture
Janez Janša – – 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:


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.

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