Having its very existence called into question might not be what the World Cinema Fund had in mind when it chose the subject “Supporting cinema in countries in transition: Are we doing the right thing?”
But that was the subtext at Wednesday’s gabfest.
“Faro, Goddess of Water” helmer Salif Traore hails from Mali, “where there is practically no film industry.” He thanked the fund and admitted that, without outside coin, “Faro” would never have been made.
Invited to play devil’s advocate, Egypt’s Viola Shafik pointed out that in the Arab world, independent, non-commercial cinema is “totally dependent on European funds.”
“These funded films are totally detached from the local audience,” she added, asking the fund to examine its raison d’etre and to consider what its intentions are and what it wished to support.
Nigeria has a thriving film industry — to the extent that the country is a major exporter, especially to South Africa.
Produer Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima, who is CEO of the African Movie Academy Awards, praised her country for producing films for local auds, presenting them through local eyes, rather “than those African films that make no impact on the home culture.”
She said this was particularly important on a continent that has “100 decent cinemas” and far more important day-to-day issues.
Her wish is for the fund to concentrate on bringing in technical know-how and education and “let us tell our own stories in our own words.”
Variety senior critic Derek Elley, who “thought I’d be the only heretic here!” confessed to having “growing problems with film funds that only feed the monster of the film festival circuit.”
At the end of the day, Elley added, “These European funds give free travel to bureaucrats and officials, create lots of jobs in Europe and feed arthouse distributors in the West. They don’t generate jobs or industry or audiences back home.”