Busan: Policy Chiefs Propose Asian Film Promotion Body

Policy makers and film commissioners Monday unveiled plans for a new Asian film promotion organization.

The new body, possibly modeled on European Film Promotion, a non-governmental structure, would seek to expand the audience for Asian film and stimulate international co-productions. EFP uses festivals and markets such as Busan’s and media partnerships to showcase talent and works by young filmmakers.

A proposal for the new body was an agenda item at the Asian Film Policy Forum in Busan. “The need for founding an international organization that does not only attract film productions to the region, but also supports distribution and international sales of Asian films is rising higher than ever,” said Oh Seokgeun, president of the Asian Film Commissions Network and director of the Busan Film Commission. “Co-production is a must, not an option.”

The organization is clearly still at the concept stage and faces considerable obstacles before it can advance much further Delegates pointed to the scale of Asia and its geographic, economic and linguistic diversity, which dwarf that of Europe. Different religions and approaches to censorship are another challenge.

Austria’s Martin Schweighofer, president of EFP, and manager Susanne Davis picked up the gauntlet, explaining that all EFP members are quasi-governmental promotional organizations, whose remit includes the showcasing of national films overseas. “EFP started as a self-help group, we did it without the European Union. When it became so successful we had to turn to the E.U. for more financing,” said Schweighofer.

Though it has sub-regional organizations such as ASEAN and other free trade zones, Asia lacks any pan-regional inter-governmental body equivalent to the European Union or the Council of Europe. Subsidies for film production and distribution, the bedrock of the European co-production system, are also largely absent in Asia.

“European governments know about the value of cultural industries, but in Asia our governments expect the film industry to be to be self-dependent,” said Korean producer Lee Jooick. “We need decision makers in Asia to agree on our cultural advantage, to emulating (the EU’s) Media Programme,” said Michael Lake, former CEO of Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios.

Others suggested that the Asian film bodies start to build the Asian Film Promotion without waiting for governments to catch up. “Governments take a long time to take decisions. If we take approach that we first need a government level body, it might take too long. Maybe we need to first start with practical, programs of defined benefit, then bring in the governments,” said Singapore Film Commission director Joachim Ng.

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