Ministers prep for a session at the festival
Viviane Reding credits herself with putting Europe on the map at the Cannes Film Festival. Now she’s taking it a step further to connect Europe with the rest of the world.The European Union’s redoubtable commissioner for information, society and media is getting ready for the sixth “Europe Day” at Cannes on May 19, when culture ministers from EU member states meet filmmakers to discuss the future of what the Eurocrats love to call “audiovisual” policy. “We could have a ministerial meeting in Brussels or Paris, but what is special about Cannes is that we have the possibility also to discuss with the filmmakers,” she explains. Romanian Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu will preside over the ministerial discussions as this year’s “sponsor,” following in the footsteps of the likes of Stephen Frears, Milos Forman and the Dardenne brothers, who fulfilled the role in previous years. “I created Europe Day with (Cannes fest prexy) Gilles Jacob. It was our idea to make European film more visible at this film festival,” Reding says. “At the beginning, it was a real cultural shock to see the ministers come to the film festival, but now they are integrated. The symbol of the ministers and the commissioner walking up the red carpet is a very powerful one, I think.” For the past five years, these meetings have focused on how to get Europe’s national film industries working better together. This year, Reding is turning the attention outward to address Europe’s cinematic relationships with other regions, such as Latin America, Asia and Russia. “In the next few months, there will be a new generation of international trade agreements with partners outside Europe, and there’s an opportunity to add new provisions on audiovisual cooperation and reciprocity into these general agreements,” she says. She is also putting forth a proposal for an extension to Europe’s MEDIA program of audiovisual subsidies, which she calls MEDIA Intl. This would cover cooperation with countries outside Europe in the fields of training, film promotion and exhibition.