Ministry of Foreign Affairs commits to subsidy

A question mark has hung over the future of the Hubert Bals Fund since a government decision in 2007 threatened to remove more than half its funding. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was soon persuaded to change its mind, in principle, but a new financial commitment has been longer in coming.

The fund is the part of the Rotterdam Intl. Film Festival that supports directors from developing countries with script, development and post-production grants. Some 60% of its e1.2 million ($1.7 million) annual budget comes from the ministry, with the rest provided by nongovernmental organizations and public broadcaster NPS.

After nearly two years of uncertainty, normal service is about to be resumed, according to fund manager Bianca Taal.

“The ministry asked for an independent evaluation of the activities of the fund. That has been carried out and the outcome was very positive,” she says. “In the meantime, we have had confirmation of our subsidy for 2009, so things are looking up.”

The evaluation praised the fund’s ability to do a lot with very little money, and suggested that it could extend its work supporting the distribution of films in their countries of origin.

“Some of the films have really successful tours around festivals but have big problems being seen in their own countries,” Taal explains. “That kind of support is something we already do, and we’re looking at new ways we can help.”

A new four-year funding agreement is expected to be announced by the government early in 2009, possibly in time for the festival itself.

Meanwhile, the fund will be celebrating its 20th anniversary with approximately 30 of its films appearing in the Rotterdam fest. These include Ramtin Lavafipour’s “Be Calm and Count to Seven” in the Tiger competition, Yesim Ustaoglu’s “Pandora’s Box,” which scored kudos at San Sebastian in 2008, and Haile Gerima’s “Teza,” feted at Venice.

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