Vilnius 2022 - Meeting Point Vilnius
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In Vilnius, industry representatives discuss how the war in Ukraine is affecting Europe’s audiovisual industry
The event, organised by Meeting Point, aimed at finding a common ground and shared actions to support Ukrainian filmmakers
On 1 April, Meeting Point, Vilnius International Film Festival’s industry strand, hosted a dedicated Ukrainian Cinema Day, which saw the participation of industry speakers from Lithuania, Ukraine and other European countries.
The event was moderated by journalist Nick Holdsworth. It was kicked off by the opening words of Alessandra Pastore, the festival’s Head of Industry, who stressed the need to find shared actions to help Ukrainian cinema, and those of Algirdas Ramaska, the festival’s COO, who touched upon the reasons behind the boycott on Russian cinema: “We were supporting them all the way. Two years ago, we opened the festival with Kirill Serebrennikov’s Leto [+see also:
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film profile]. We made a statement to help him. But now, it’s not the time to focus there. The focus should be fully on Ukraine, on filmmakers, on people who are dying, being raped, bombed.” He added that sanctions are being implemented in other fields such as business and sports, therefore culture shouldn’t make an exception.
The floor was then given to Simonas Kairys, Lithuania’s Minister of Culture. Kairys highlighted that Ukrainians now need three things, namely “guns, effective sanctions, and help in fighting the propaganda war.” The government’s action will focus on ensuring Ukrainian filmmakers who are now refugees in Lithuania maintain ties with their country and ultimately return there to rebuild it.
Next, Artiom Kolyubaiev, of Ukraine’s Council for State Support of Cinematography, spoke about the body’s efforts to look for international partners to finalise films that are already in post-production and just need some final touches, as well as their commitment to organising screenings around the world to collect funds to support the Ukrainian army.
Producer Natalia Libet called for humanitarian aid (mostly aimed at women and children who cannot speak EU languages and are abroad, but also for those who are still stuck in the country) and professional support (funds to cover filmmakers’ living expenses, as well as safety and filming equipment).
Head of German Films Simone Baumann said that European distributors shouldn’t deal with their Russian colleagues, but also invited the attendees to realise that distribution outfits are private enterprises and they can’t force their business decisions. According to her understanding, however, most of the distributors “are not selling anything at the moment [to Russia].” She also revealed that German Films interrupted all their relationships with Russian film bodies and is not paying for contracts already in place.
Marynia Gierat, of Europa Cinemas, spoke about how necessary it was for many theatres and distributors to release Ukrainian films to sensitise the public as well as to organise screenings for refugees (subtitled and/or dubbed, including children’s films) and/or to collect revenues to support Ukrainian charities. She also stressed the need for these courageous players to be helped by institutions, since they are still navigating dark waters owing to the aftermath of the pandemic crisis. She didn’t comment, however, on the actions that the body will implement towards Russian cinemas, as these still need to be discussed internally.
Vanja Kaludjercic, International Film Festival Rotterdam’s director, talked through the role currently played by the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk and the newly-created emergency fund to support affected filmmakers, now able to allocate small grants of €500, €1,000 or €1,500 to assist them with temporary relocation expenses, legal and administrative fees as well as “initial minor but necessary expense” incurred owing to the current situation. To date, grants have been wired to roughly 150 filmmakers. More funding is urgently needed to help a number of other filmmakers, and the network is actively lobbying within the film community to secure additional resources (to donate, please click here: https://www.icfr.international/).
Later, Maria Silvia Gatta, of Creative Europe MEDIA, mentioned that Ukraine already signed the agreement to enter the 2021-2027 MEDIA programme last December, and that the procedure “had been done under urgency.” Creative Europe is co-operating with partners such as the EFA and Cannes’ Marché du film, to guarantee the creation of Ukraine-focused initiatives and a wide participation of Ukrainian professionals to European industry events. She admitted this is still very little, and more efforts are required to create other useful initiatives.
Finally, Tetiana Matskiv of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation spoke about the activities of the state-owned agency, launched in 2017, which until last February was able to support a number of projects promoting the country’s national culture, mostly at pre-production stage. She said that, obviously, the state has revised its priority in light of the current situation, and almost 600 million Ukrainian hryvnia (ca. €18.7 million) of the agency’s budget was transferred to the armed forces, while leaving some funds to help local artists. Thus, partnerships with European bodies could be essential to keep Ukrainian culture active during war times, she added.
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