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Den Hamer Hammers Ministry

Den Hamer hammers Dutch ministry

26 January. The 36th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) kicked off Wednesday with Esteban Sapir’s surreal, black-and-white melodrama, LA ANTENA (AERIAL). Festival director Sandra den Hamer opened the night with a speech, including a plea on behalf of filmmakers from the developing world, many of which have films at the festival. Den Hamer addressed proposed cuts at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is threatening to withdraw support from the festival’s Hubert Bals Fund (HBF), which supports filmmakers from these regions.

“Here I would like to say: 'Madam Minister: it is not the Hubert Bals Fund, but the films and filmmakers in the developing countries who cannot miss your support',” she said.

Den Hamer spoke of the “dark clouds” hanging over the fund, which is named after IFFR founder Hubert Bals, and has an annual budget of EUR 1.2 million. Some 60% of this figure is provided through the ministry. This is now threatened due to policy changes.

“Stormy weather is expected,” she said. “The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has designed a new financing scheme. Because of formal reasons, the Hubert Bals Fund does not fit in….This means that the financing will stop within two years. There is a lot of praise for the fund (also by the ministry), but according to Kafkaesque principles it does not fit in the new scheme.”

The HBF is a key source of funding for filmmakers in developing countries, and provides ongoing support throughout the year, and at all stages of the filmmaking process, including distribution and exhibition.

“Just as important as the exhibition here, is the exhibition in the countries of origin. The Hubert Bals Fund also makes that possible, “Den Hamer said. “African productions, for example, are screened in townships in South-Africa and in courtyards in Mali…The International Film Festival Rotterdam is not a festival that is only throwing a huge party for twelve days. Rotterdam plays a major role in producing and distributing independent cinema from all over the world.”

The HBF has funded over 400 films in its twenty-year history with 20 playing at this year’s festival, including LA ANTENA.

“These are films which, without the support of the Hubert Bals Fund, would neither have been made nor screened,” Den Hamer said, “Not in the Netherlands and not in the filmmaker's country. Thus, with modest contributions – that is really what they are - important support is given to stimulate the cultural identity in developing countries and to stimulate cultural exchange on a broad international level.”

The fund has made a formal objection to the proposed cuts. (LF)