But politics play part in regional hookups

Euromed’s first-ever regional conference to discuss promoting, distributing and exhibiting films from the Mediterranean kicked off in Berlin on Saturday with few of the sparks that blighted last year’s launch of fellow EU project Greenhouse, a EU-funded Mediterranean Film Centre.

Two-day event was opened with speeches from Berlinale topper Dieter Kosslick and the European Commission’s Carla Montesi. Delegates from all 10 of the Euromed territories were in attendance.

“We’re working to establish co-operation across all domains, including economic, political and cultural,” said Leonidas Kioussis, the EC’s head of sector for Euromed. “We’re funding 12 projects with a total of €15 million. We want to bring all these people together and create a dialogue.”

Organizers got more dialogue than they bargained for last year after some Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers criticized the choice of Greenhouse partners, particularly Israel’s state-funded New Foundation for Cinema and Television (NFCT) and the Ramallah Film Institute (RFI).

Biggest gripe over RFI’s inclusion was the fact it was registered in Israel, despite being included as a Palestinian partner. RFI was eventually dropped after the controversy.

“This so-called demand for us to find solutions for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is a failure,” said David Fisher of the NFCT. “We are film professionals. We should be developing films, not politics.” This being the Middle East, though, politics always seems to get in the way. The event was marked by a smaller Palestinian contingent than last year, an indication, perhaps, of the effects the economic blockade on the Palestinian authority since the 2006 election of Hamas.

“We’ve had problems in terms of being able to finance national participants’ projects in Palestine directly in the current situation,” said Kioussis. “Last year was not a good year to start these kind of alliances.” There was plenty of confidence, however, from other delegates over growth of film biz in the region, particularly Morocco.

While Hollywood film shoots have boosted local coffers, local filmmaking is also going through the roof. The Centre Cinematographie Marocain (CCM) is in charge of an annual $6.5 million fund to boost local production, a figure that has more than doubled since 2003.

“Four years ago, we made four feature films. This year we have 15 in production,” said CCM’s Noureddine Sail. “We were making five-six short films a year in 2003, but now we’re up to almost 100. This is giving young people the opportunity to make films. This is the future for the producing a cinema industry in Morocco.”

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