On October the 27th, the public hearing on Cinema and European identities launched the 4-week screening cycle of the three films competing for the 2010 LUX Prize.
Addressing the hearing, organized by the Committee on Culture and Education, the legendary film director Wim Wenders warned that many EU’s citizens perceive Europe as a mere economic and bureaucratic structure. “The administration of Europe has become the image of Europe”, he said. Films are “the secret weapon” that can transform this “sagging” image. “Movies practically invented the American dream. They can do the same for Europe”. He explained European films tell European stories and reflect the values, history and diversity of this continent and, as such, nurture its European identity.
Learning the visual language
Mr Wenders was particularly worried that children were equating cinema with blockbusters. Children are abandoning books for the television and the Internet. This is their focus, he said, yet schools do little to help them understand what they are watching or educate them so that they can make more diverse choices in what they see. He argues that schools can teach children the visual language. It has its own grammar and vocabulary and should be part of the school curricula throughout Europe, he said. He suggested that the new MEDIA programme could fund film education in schools. Once children learn the language of moving pictures, they can then choose to see “fast food” movies or the “slow but good film food” of Europe.
Local film production strong
Europe is making more films than ever before but many are not finding their way into the cinemas. In the last year, 80% of the films shown in Europe were American even though some 1,200 films were produced here. In addition, few films cross national borders into neighbouring EU countries even if they are successful in their own country. “The audience is there but the chances of seeing these movies are diminishing”, said Mr Wenders.
The Polish film distributor Roman Gutek agreed. He said in his experience it was difficult to get cinemas to screen European films. “Half of the European films produced never reach the cinema and when they do they are shown for only one or two weeks”, he said. “We have the goods but not the shops to sell them in.” This is making European cinema “more of an elite form of recreation.” He would like to see EU funding for cinemas to help them refurbish and add new screens. He congratulated the LUX Prize saying it was highly important in promoting European films. He also supports the integration of cinema into schools and believes the Internet has a bigger role to play in opening the European film market.
European film aid crucial
Anne Jackel, a visiting UK research fellow and the author ofEuropean film industries, spoke about the history of European co-productions. She said the past shows that despite many problems, government support gave the industry a huge boost. “EU funding is doing the same today”, she said. It is crucial in ensuring more films are made and seen.
Giorgio Gosetti, General Delegate of “Venice Days” at the Venice international film festival, emphasized the key role of film festivals to help directors reach new audiences, audiences to access films and films to find distributors beyond their national borders.
Like many of the MEPs who spoke during the lively debate, Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education Doris Pack agreed with the call to bring the cinema into schools and gave her backing to continued EU funding for the production and distribution of European films.
Photo ©European Parliament / Pietro Naj-Oleari