Gallic, German pix in exchange plan

German-French Film Academy formed

BERLIN — Taking advantage of French President Jacques Chirac’s visit to the German capital, the culture ministers of Germany and France announced Monday the formation of the German-French Film Academy, whose task will be to boost the popularity of German and French film in both countries.

Striking a surprisingly mild tone toward Hollywood, German Cultural Minister Michael Naumann and French counterpart Catherine Tasca said they are not seeking to hinder the success of U.S. fare. Instead, they wish to strengthen French and German production and broaden the choice of films available in local cinemas by helping to educate potential filmmakers and the moviegoing public.

“The state cannot produce geniuses, or sway the public taste one way or the other, but it can help create conditions for a richer film culture,” said Naumann at a press conference here.

“We want to protect our cultural diversity against the pressures of globalization,” Tasca added. “Yet we cannot always blame America. The viewers have become more mature, and they demand a wider choice of films. Europeans must learn to make better films and write better screenplays.”

Exchange students

Naumann criticized the “microscopic degree” of film exchange between the two countries: French and German films make up about 1% of each other’s respective markets. Naumann also underlined the need for improved marketing of local pics, saying that U.S. films normally spend 10 times more on marketing than do German productions.

The 44-member German-French Film Academy, a brainchild of Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, will advise the culture ministers on how best to accomplish a number of lofty goals: increasing co-productions between the two countries; spearheading the development of privately sponsored funds to better distribute and market French pics in Germany and Teutonic movies in France; putting more of the countries’ homemade products on each other’s TV screens; creating joint educational opportunities for film students; and working together to preserve the nations’ cinematic heritage.

Members of the academy include a who’s who of industry insiders and politicos from both countries, including helmers Luc Besson and Volker Schlondorff; actress Jeanne Moreau; Kinowelt chief Rainer Koelmel; Dieter Kosslick, head of the state film subsidy NRW Filmmstiftung; and producers Philippe Carcassonne and Rene Cleitman.

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