The Euromed Audiovisual III Programme’s first regional conference (Tunis, November 14-15, 2011) has come to an end in the midst of a huge cinematic effervescence. In a climate of debate and exchange produced by passionate professionals, the programme kick-started the launch of an elaborate three-year mission to support and encourage the development of the cinematographic and audiovisual sector in the South Mediterranean regions. The conference exposed the existent problems faced by these countries, and explored the solutions in an environment of understanding and joint efforts. As the different participants expressed an individual wish for the future, the conference advanced opening the terrain through round tables and open discussion evoking fundamental questions.
Funded by the European Union, the programme aims at financing co-operation projects and providing technical assistance to the local authorities. Promoting complementarity and integration of the region’s film and audiovisual industries, whilst seeking to harmonise public sector policy and legislation, was clearly set as a major aspiration of the programme. A fundamental accent is set on training, with six grants projects already on the rails.
An immersion in Tunisian cinema, through the screening of six short films after the welcome cocktail, initiated the gathering in the historic city of Tunis. The two-day intensive conference comprised an extensive series of round tables, revolving around the most significant issues in the area, with the participation of renowned professionals. After an official presentation of the programme and its various components, Chrystelle Lucas, the programme manager, launched the beginning of 48 hours of fervent discussion and analysis. In order to establish the grounds, an exhaustive overview followed, presenting the cinema and audiovisual landscape and analysing the needs of the countries. Moderated by Renate Roginas, Capacity Development Support Unit (CDSU) Team Leader, various countries where introduced through different speakers of the sector. The importance of data collection was stressed by André Lange (European Audiovisual Observatory) as Sahar Ali (CDSU statistics expert) explained their activities under the supervision of this organisation. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to the financial questions arising in the regions, with an in-depth analysis of the financial tools to support production in the South and to encourage South/South and North/South co-productions. Representatives of the major funding mechanisms, such as Dora Bouchoucha (Centre National de la Cinématographie/Fonds Sud) and Vincenzo Bugno (World Cinema Fund), among others, drew a clear and comprehensive image of the funding available. This exposition was completed by a presentation of ongoing studies on the ‘typology of financial support mechanisms applied to countries from the South,’ and a ‘catalogue of co-productions’, presented by the experts in charge of studies Linda Beath and Lucas Rosant. Following an intense day, the participants continued their discussions during the cocktail dinner, and were later invited to discover Rouge Parole, a film by Elyes Baccar, shot in the midst of the Arab spring in Tunisia.
After a night of reflection, the second day of the conference opened by treating the crucial problematic of film promotion and access to film markets for professionals, including both features and documentaries. In the same scope, the access to festivals and promotion planned for the next Berlinale, with a special focus this year on Arab documentary, was exposed. A necessary presentation of the legal database of the Euromed Audiovisual Programme was then carried on, before going back to the fundamental question of how to bring the public back to the cinema theatres, in a discussion moderated by Valerio Caruso (Regional Monitoring and Support Unit), where representatives of the Cineteca de Bologna addressed the vital issue of education in the visual image. A panel on distribution and cinema theatres followed, in which experts addressed state of the art, VOD, digitization, 3D evolution, and development prospects, moderated by Menem Richa (Europa Cinemas). A special attention was also accorded to regional funds and commissions, highlighting the best practices, and analysing the examples of Cine Regio, the Royal Film Commision-Jordan, as well as the European Film Commission networks. Next, a crucial debate was anchored around the role of television and broadcasters in the funding of film and audiovisual works, and in what measures they can be partners for producers from the South, animated by a selection of experts, amongst which Giacomo Mazzone (European Broadcasting Union), and Mustapha Mellouk (General Director Casablanca Media Partners). The final panel addressed the significant question of Arab cinema in the midst of the revolutions. A large group of Arab filmmakers, moderated by Hala Alabdalla (filmmaker, Syria) debated around the ‘new wave’ of Arab cinema. The key discussions centred on how to take advantage of the general awareness and professional solidarity in order to strengthen creation, and whether documentary, in particular, could be an ideal means of expression and resistance. The conference drew to an end as filmmakers shared their opinions, experiences, and desires, with the vivacious involvement of the participants and guests.
The European Commission closed the programme, drawing on crucial points having marked the conference, such as the importance of the youth for the future cinematographic landscape and the essential importance of work with television. Chrystelle Lucas, the programme manager, as a final note stressed the importance for the programme of supporting South/South cooperation, and thus assisting the region in making a genuine cinema reflecting its own identity. After two days of enlightening exchange and debate, the enthusiastic discussions continued throughout the closing dinner, imparting a genuine flavour of the newly launched Euromed Audiovisual III Programme.