Dutch Docfest Lambastes EC’s Cuts To Media

The fallout from the restructure of the European Commission’s Media Program clouded Amsterdam’s 8th Intl. Documentary Film Festival as some 400 commissioning editors and producers at the event demanded the documentary initiative not be axed in Media II.

Claiming to be the largest docu fest in the world, the event held in Amsterdam from Dec. 6 to 14 drew more than 38,000 visitors and $75,000 in box office receipts.

Business took on a somber note in the last three days of the fest, however, when more than 90 commissioning editors and 300 film producers signed a heated letter of protest to the Media Committee of the European Commission.

The petition chastised commissioners for derailing the documentary program in Media II and demanded that it be reinstated in some form. All 19 of the Media I initiatives terminate at the end of this month, but some will re-emerge in 1996 under Media II.

“From what we’ve seen, documentary is to be lumped in with fiction films in an enormous blob in Media II,” Nick Fraser, editor of BBC documentary series “Fine Cut” and one of the drafters of the petition told Variety. Signatories charged no “independent producers and TV commissioning editors in the documentary industry” had been consulted in the reorg, and one source said Media II plans suggest only film projects of more than 50 minutes will be funded, a codicil that Canal Plus France documentary topper Anna Glogowski said would be “a stupid move.” Canal Plus is increasingly programming docs into primetime slots, she points out, but many of them are less than 50 minutes long.

Chris Haws, commissioning editor and head of European production for Discovery, one of the largest global purchasers of docs, said the new Media program appeared to be “systematically disenfranchising professionals” in favor of a more “bureaucrat” system likely to result in less buyable product.

During the festival itself, director Raymond Depardon walked away with the Dutch documentary Oscar, the Joris Ivens Award, for his 105-minute pic on the French judicial system “Delits Flagrants.” A special jury prize also was handed out to U.S. director Jonathan Schell for his 35-minute docu about film and dance wannabes, “Picasso Would Have Made a Glorious Waiter.”

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