Memo February 2007


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in February 2007

Too many figures again, with apologies. Now about films.


Where self-observation has led
It had occurred to the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) that cultural observatories should turn their telescopes on the reverse and watch themselves. This is the story behind the Buda Castle Retreat last November. It took some time to put down memories in a report.

The participants, including observatory veterans and beginners, were faced with the looseness of definitions: sometimes to the point of questioning fixed borders and identities of cultural observatories. And yet, we recognised in one another the same drives and limitations. The report is supposed to reflect these ambiguities - and to be persuasive about creating further cultural observatories.

EU diplomacy and culture
The ECF-supported LabforCulture, too, was deeply involved in the retreat on observatories: for them such workshops are a typical way of operation.

Culture in the foreign policy of the European Union is another theme where the Lab has been instrumental. That project has arrived at the publication of a second book. Also, within a few days there will be a conference in The Hague, dedicated to the issue. 

Turning outwards
The MEDIA 2007 programme has declared the promotion of European films worldwide one of its priorities.

It may appear paradoxical that the EU is about to intensify its cultural actions towards the rest of the world in a period which is little characterised by European self-confidence, or indeed by an increasing influence on global matters. Nevertheless, BO approves.

Supporting audio-visual culture in Europe
MEDIA 2007 is the support programme for the European audiovisual industry. The info-sheet of the programme springs off from the objective of "a stronger European audiovisual sector, reflecting Europe's cultural identity and heritage"; the rest, however, is businesslike, no more reference to arts, culture, identity, cohesion etc. Knowing the content, however, we add the €755 million of MEDIA 2007 to the €400 million of Culture Programme (2007-2013), totalling the funds for direct cultural interventions of the European Commission as €1155 million.

It is easy to compute that support from MEDIA will be over €100 million in each of the seven years. Aware of the dismal financial conditions for cultural actions of the Council of Europe, BO was pleasantly surprised to learn that the related fund of Eurimages is only five or six times smaller, spending about €21 million a year on films in Europe. While MEDIA is connected to EU membership, Eurimages serves the whole of Europe. Well, it tends to: Bosnia and Serbia have been members since 2005, Estonia and Macedonia from 2003, but the United Kingdom or Ukraine still do not figure among the 32 member countries.

Who produced with whom
BO could not withstand its compulsion and checked the records of last year's Eurimages grants on co-productions: this is where 90% of Eurimages money goes.

In 2006 Eurimages supported 56 films of 25 member countries. For the 56 movies film-makers were involved into co-production from 25 countries. The two sets of 25 were not the same: Latvia was the only country that did not figure either as a main or a co-producer in 2006.

Since a film could collect co-production partners from several countries, BO counted 92 bilateral bonds (just as we do with Culture 2000 projects). Predictably, France dominated the scene, with six films leading to eleven co-production links. Films from two other countries gathered ten links, Italy and - Serbia! The next member country (Spain) was way behind with six co-production links. 

There was a similar pattern in the list of countries chosen as co-producers. German and French film-makers were chosen 17 and 15 times respectively, followed at a distance by the next country (Italy) with seven occurrences.

Who showed for whom
The matrix of Eurimages has 32x31=992 cells: films from 32 member countries can get distribution grants in the other 31 countries. Most of these cells, however, remained empty in 2006, when 92 films received support for distribution in altogether 143 bilateral cases. There were seven countries that abstained both as a sender and a receiver of a film, including Estonia and Slovenia. On the other hand, our region showed the greatest concentration, too. Supporting French films in Serbia (16 cases) and Bosnia (13) was followed by Croatia (10). Altogether 59 grants were paid to distributors that imported French films; Spanish and Italian films came next with 12 and 11 promotion grants. Notwithstanding the readiness to show foreign films in Serbia (altogether 23 times) and Bosnia (25), Romanian distributors gained support with the greatest frequency: among their 32 grants eight Hungarian, seven French and four Spanish films stand out.

The mystery of charities
It is not the first time that the newsletter of the international federation of arts councils and culture agencies (IFACCA ) shows BO's way to interesting reading. This time to an international analysis of charity, administered by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) based in the United Kingdom.

The paper confirms BO reservation about overestimating the impact of tax benefits on donations (or sponsorship, for that matter). CAF authors identified at least four more factors that influence charity willingness in a country. Factors that explain why in the USA the value of donations is estimated to be more than twice as much as in the UK, and over ten times higher than in France, in relation to the gross national product. What seems to count most is the general tax burden, and most particularly the social security to be paid by employers in a given country. Taking the risk of simplifying a very complex issue, one can say that in a country either individual charity or collective solidarity can reach a high level. 

Finishing off with an ad, or eine Anzeige rather: German-speaking young cultural managers from east and central Europe can gain a year-long fellowship in Germany. Application deadline is 10 April.