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  Organizing film societies worldwide...


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SYMPOSIUM OF FICC / IFFS DURING THE REGGIO FILM SOCIETY FESTIVAL 2002

Janine Bertrand France (jointly responsible for the questionnaire) started by saying that thanks to the work of our Paolo Minuto members of federations had enjoyed good relationships and company over the past four years of the festival, but we don't know very well how each federation works since there are great geographical and historical differences among the members of the international film society movement. She went on to talk about the motivation for trying to analyse the situation today in the face of globalisation, she went back to the difficultly we have experienced over the past years to establish the reasons for the creation of IFFS. - she recalled the words of the French critic Georges Sadoul at the time of the creation of the international movement, ³the primary object of film clubs is the organisation of screenings². We renewed this objective when in the General Assembly at Porto we voted on the new IFFS statutes, without changing the objectives of IFFS, specifically those of the presentation, distribution and study of films of artistic, cultural and social value- it¹s what in France is called Oeducation populaire¹ and it is that objective which is the most difficult for us to attain Since the objectives of the IFFS have been to improve knowledge about the cinema throughout the world, it might have been thought that the globalisation taking place now would be of benefit, but this is not the case in the world of culture and cinema, since this is a merchandising of the cinema and in my opinion that is what we should be fighting against.
It is wonderful that we are a truly international organisation, with this year representatives from all five continents, but in the commercial world internationalisation is ruled by the profit motive. The objectives of film clubs are to provide people with the opportunity to develop critical awareness and study their own culture, and in the context of globalisation this freedom cannot be exercised. The general public today are becoming more and more consumers, but we are not interested in this Opublic¹ but in the public of citizens.

Janine went on to recall that some years ago Robert Richter had called a meeting in Switzerland from which had sprung the idea of the OFilm Network.¹ A committee from the IFFS had been formed which had worked to try and create an alternative selection of films not currently available for film clubs throughout the world, these films were based on the titles which had won awards at international festivals given by our own IFFS juries. However this initiative had not taken off, due to lack of interest by individual federations in the films proposed. It was partly for this reason that the questionnaire which you received was suggested. Of course it would be naive to suggest that your replies to the questionnaire will allow us to resolve the problem of the film network or indeed other problems. Since you have only just received the results of the questionnaire, I will try and give you some general comments about the answers - two comments, that the submission from the British Federation arrived too late to be included and that Paolo Minuto gave me a dossier from the Lebanon which although not a direct response to the questionnaire did contain many of the answers. Most film clubs have voluntary members who join, whilst some allow a more general public to attend. Most federations did not have to pay commercial taxes, that is taxes on members fees. The majority of film clubs are run by amateurs. I found it surprising to learn that only a minority of federations provided films for film clubs . The other surprise was the great difference between the number of member of federations, some had two hundred whilst others only five, and furthermore the great difference in the number of screenings offered. On the question of what types of films are screened, we find that the silent cinema is very poorly represented, with the majority of films shown being made during the past ten years. One could ask the question whether it is for film clubs to show the same films as the commercial sector. Some fifteen respondents receive financial assistance, (from the state) only eight of these from sponsors Now how do we turn the responses to the questionnaire into some form of proposition for action ? Perhaps when we leave the room we should all think of a film we would like IFFS to try and obtain the rights for us.

Ivo Andrle (Czech Republic) jointly responsible for the questionnaire) said that we will now probably hear very many different ideas from delegates because we all have our own ideas as to how IFFS could help and how it could function in the future. When I joined the IFFS committee last year in the Reggio meeting I asked about our members and nobody could give me answers which caused us to think about creating this questionnaire. Having discovered that federations have different ideas and needs maybe IFFS cannot work for all federations, it might be that IFFS can help federations with similar aims and ideas to work together, on common projects and even just to communicate better. Janine has made one proposal about finding one title for distribution among some federations, I hope that there will other concrete proposals. However on a pessimistic note, there is a difference between ideas and discussion and concrete outcomes - for instance there has been no official output from the last two meetings of the IFFS committee, here in Reggio and then in Frankfurt., where we still do not have the minutes. I ask whether we can carry out projects with a committee which in my opinion does not do very much.

Janine Bertrand asked the delegates whether in the course of the year they had ever thought about a film which was not in distribution as being something that IFFS could try to obtain - she was particularly keen on the history of the cinema since so few films from the early days were shown in film clubs. She recounted the experience of her Federation which had acquired Murnau¹s Tabu and asked whether they would be interested in some of the great directors¹ works, people like Ray, Von Stroheim, Mizoguchi etc.

Peter Cargin (Vice President) speaking as the Chairman of the British Federation of Film Societies, apologised for the fact that the questionnaire had not been returned in time, this was the responsibility of David Phillips who was not in Reggio. He gave some information about the situation in UK. based on a very recent survey of the 170 members ; 29% of film societies could screen in 35mm, 16% screen only in 16mm , 7% screen on VHS or DVD, 10% on 35mm or DVD, 33% screen on 16mm and have VHS and DVD, 5% on 35mm,16mm,VHS,or DVD.. So the majority of film societies show on 35mm or DVD and these would be the formats societies would be interested in obtaining copies of films on. The BFFS is investing in DVD projectors and players and there is also help from the government via the Film Council. Since we have a good range of films available at the moment from commercial distributors it would only be a title available on DVD and which had been seen at say the London Film Festival which might attract interest from a society to screen it.

Contributions from Gabriel Rodrigues Mexico/ Marti Porter Catalan in Spanish

Richard Keys (Australian Council of Film Societies) said he would like to support the last remarks regarding producing a publication which would help to raise the profile of IFFS, especially in far distant places. With regard to films, he thought that in Australia they would not put their energies into distributing films, but to try and get existing distributors to bring the films into the country. Much more interested in IFFS producing publications, newsletters, exchange of information, reviews etc in a number of languages.

Robert Richter (Vice President) referred to the suggestion from Mexico about a book and said that many years ago IFFS had in fact published a book, and although he agreed that to publish a book would be nice,it would also be necessary to use the internet and the IFFS web page. He welcomed more ideas but warned that translating ideas into reality would not be easy - he could understand Ivo¹s comments about being unhappy with the committee and work of IFFS. But we must remember that IFFS has very little money, we have in the past tried to get money but even for projects this has not proved to be possible.
It is easier to obtain national funding than funding for an international organisation like ours. The work thus has to be done on a voluntary basis. He did not think that IFFS had been too bad in the past years, he was not happy with everything, the home page for example was not what we wanted and no doubt if we were prepared to pay SFR 10,000 we could have a good home page very quickly. Ivo had offered to produce a home page, using the Czech federation example, but as with the minutes from Frankfurt we never got a definite offer from him about the home page. So the book idea is good, but also on the web and maybe on a CDRom as well.
Returning to the question which Janine and Ivo posed arising out of the results of the questionnaire - can we offer access to films ? He recalled the setting up of a committee, Janine Bertrand, Bernt Lindner, Eva Kacherova and himself, to try and develop the so called ONetwork Discoveries¹ but as Janine said it failed. It is necessary to recall why the idea failed, so that the same mistakes are not made again. The main problems were money and how to obtain the rights. We have to think about whether or not we should try a relaunch, or perhaps admit that it is not the job of IFFS, we just cannot do such a thing.
As a positive point he mentioned the increase in the number of IFFS juries in the past years, giving colleagues not only the chance to see films but meet members from other federations. He then asked Janine if she could give some reasons why the Film Network idea had failed.

Janine Bertrand felt it more useful to talk on a positive matter, the meeting of the Latin Group, (the Portuguese Federation, the Galician Federation and one of the French member UNICC) in Spain during the summer. The group thought that instead of trying to distribute films in the manner of the proposed Film Network, they should try to distribute totally independently made films which had no distribution at all. - this was thanks to the initiative of Marti Porter. So it would be possible to obtain a French film of this sort for showing in Spain, a film from Galicia for showing in France etc. And it would be possible to obtain the non commercial rights for a limited period of such a film of quality on 35mm including subtitles for a modest amount of money.
She referred to the comments by Peter Cargin about the cost of producing DVD copies, and agreed that it was cheaper to obtain a film on DVD than 35mm . But this was not a question that had been asked in the questionnaire. Screening on DVD was not what was expected in film clubs, where the largest number of people should have the opportunity to see the film In France the screening of films on DVD and video is limited to Ofree¹ screenings - the majority of responses to the questionnaire showed that at the moment it is not possible to show films on DVD to a paying public.. Unless someone can indicate the contrary she did not believe that it was possible at the moment to buy noncommercial rights for a film on DVD.
Unless there are major changes and as had been shown in replies most federations used either 35mm or 16mm, at the moment we must continue to think of screening of films.

Robert Richter said that Janine was wrong in saying you could not buy the rights of DVDs - you cannot buy a DVD in a shop and then show it in a film club, but you can buy the rights for DVD from the producer and then show DVDs to a film club.

There followed considerable discussion between Janine and Robert about whether or not you could buy the DVD rights and how much it would cost.

Bernt Lindner Germany My federation has about 400 feature films for distribution to our 1200 members and for the forty years the federation has existed we always had 16mm prints. But 16mm is gradually dying out and getting more expensive so we had to make a decision how to continue so now we have some 60 feature films on DVD which are much easier to use. We have to buy the rights non commercial of course ,but these are similar to 16mm rights. It is about 2,500 Euros per print. for three years.

It costs our members about 60 euros to hire the DVD for a week. We have been working on the distribution idea for about five years but always we found it too expensive but maybe now with DVD we could think again about it.

Italian intervention
Richard Keys returned to the question of DVD and said that in Australia the rules about screening of video and DVD is strictly enforced, distributors are paranoid about things getting out of control. The distributors are cooperative about the use of 16mm in film societies and whilst it is a dying format and inferior in picture and sound quality to DVD it will be some years before DVD is going to be able to be adopted in Australia for film society screenings.

Tikoy Aguiluz - Philippines As piracy is so wide spread in South East Asia for CDs and DVDs the distributors refuse to send prints to our part of the world. Pirated DVDs cost about $1 and are screened in small stores to the public and are rather like underground film societies. There are many rules and regulations before a film festival or film society can screen a video. My film education came from a film society, since we had no film school or such like. We also invited directors one of whom was Adoor Gopalakrishna from India who told us that for his first film he did not have an audience so he formed a film club and from this came another club until in Kerala there were some 100 film clubs.and he was able to make more films. So film societies are very important in places like ours.
All I am looking for here is first of all a directory of all members, which could be on the home page of the web site; second I would like to know if we could have access to a movie like Citizen Kane, which has never been shown. I should like to be able to show this film, on 35mm or DVD.
May I also say how grateful I am to this conference, and to this part of the world, not a rich part for being able to host us.If these questions can be answered then we would notify other members in South East Asia to join IFFS - If number one we can have access to films, if we can get a jury in our festival, an IFFS jury would be very prestigious for film makers and thirdly if we can have a directory because the whole idea of meeting here is networking.

Marti Porter Catalan Federation Spanish intervention
Ivo Andrle I am happy to hear what has been said, since we started the meeting with Janine noting that there are very big differences between all the federations - so what can IFFS do for all these different federations ? We seem to have some problems to agree on film distribution, even with one film, although I think that Janine can find federations similar to hers who could work together.and other small groups could do the same, but it is probably not possible for the whole of IFFS to work on one project.. But we heard proposals from Gabriel, supported by Marti, for helping federations to work with their local authorities to promote the idea of IFFS that is a role that IFFS could play very well, help with PR and exchange of information. I hope we will discuss this this afternoon, and even continue to work on it when we have returned home.
I think, like Tikoy that IFFS should play a role of supporting the federations, and helping them to contact their possible partners and information. The web site is the best place for this so I hope we will reach a conclusion about our web site.It is true we (Czech Federation) promised to develop the web site , but because we were disillusioned with IFFS we stopped this work. I think it is crucial to have a functioning web site where we can put all information about our activities.

Rajanee Rathavbushana Sri Lanka - I want to go back to the question of publication mentioned by our Australian colleague - we have a publication in Sri Lanka, but in our national language, but now we are going to produce some of it in English and I could keep a few pages for publishing information from other federations. Regarding screenings, we get 35mm films from Indian and Iran through the embassies. We have some 20 film societies attached to Universities but we don¹t have the possibility to get international films and we would welcome any ways IFFS can arrange so that we can get other films from European countries.

Chalida Uabumrungit Thailand - we would also like to show more films, but the cost of even the shipment of prints is too expensive yet alone the rights. We have many good Thai films which have not been picked up by the big distributors because they don¹t think they will have market appeal, but we could nominate some of the these films for possible distribution. We could do this jointly with some of our neighbours in Malaysia for example. Also many films are now made in digital format and could be available on DVD.

Tikoy Aguiluz suggested exchange of small number of prints between two countries, ie two from Estonia for two from Philippines.

Interventions from Roberto Smith de Castro Cuba and Juan Carlos Argentina in Spanish

Janine Bertrand made a summary of the points made so far - that it was necessary for us to know each other better, it would be good to use all contemporary means of communication and publicity such as the net and it would be nice to have a regular bulletin. But these need a lot of commitment and money. But this is not the point, the point and purpose of film clubs is to show films. We must talk about films and whilst there is a difference of opinion about the legality of DVD, I still do not believe that it is possible for a federation to buy the rights for a film by Nanni Moretti or Hsou Shio Sien. And then there is the question of the hardware, how should a film club which is only existing with some difficulty obtain the equipment to show DVD. But maybe we are wasting time talking about the different existing formats - there may be new ways coming as well. But it is the content of film we should be talking about, and I think it would be more valuable for our movement if IFFS was able to show just one film throughout the world of film societies, a film which was worthy of screening and had not been distributed commercially.
The professional world either does not care about us or does not know about film societies - I was at a professional meeting and on telling them about the Don Quixote prize which we give at international film festivals, they asked what happens to the films after. For the moment all we could answer would be - nothing.I should like to be able in the future to distribute a film which nobody else has and which we can offer in whatever format to film clubs, and thus establish our identity in the film world. If we want to convince the authorities or the film professionals it cannot be by words but by what we do.

Robert Richter . I am happy you come back to the content or message of the film, but I am disappointed with the meeting, because two hours ago I asked you both (Janine and Ivo) for the reasons why the Film Network idea did not work. Of course part of the reasons why it did not work was because of the technical things i.e 35mm or DVD, subtitle etc but one the most important points was how to select the films. Last year Paolo did a lot of work to include in the festival three films preselected by the Network committee and we asked representatives from federations present to choose one of of the films but people could not agree on a title. Some people from one country like the films whilst others said no they would never try to convince their federation to take it into circulation Whilst it is good to talk about market forces, globalisation when it comes down to concrete decisions we failed.

Ivo Andrle asked if Robert could see any solution to this problem.and about the way it should work.

Robert Richter Last year after the screenings we asked if people like a film, if they would be willing to co-operate in getting the film into distribution financially or otherwise.
Although I personally might not like a film, it is not for me to judge on behalf of the Swiss film clubs, there may be others who will like it, so I would say, yes go ahead and get the film for distribution in film clubs. We have to try and change people¹s attitude from a personal one to a more objective one.

Janine Bertrand we have to sometimes chose films which are not generally accepted - for example the French federation took on Ossessione before Visconti was Odiscovered¹ or before that L¹Atalante of Jean Vigo which would have been forgotten if film societies had not continued to show it.

Dang Nhat Minh Director of Vietnamese film In Vietnam there is no important organisation such as IFFS . The general public see only the Hollywood films of action, police dramas and not artistic films, even films from other Asian countries such as China, Philippines -for example we have never seen the films of Lina Brocka or Hsou Shou Sien and it would be a great work if IFFS could help us in getting these films shown. If you could arrange for a copy on DVD we would organise a special screening since in our film societies there are DVD projectors. Through these means we could help to educate the public who have only the commercial choices imported by distributors. I also agree that it is necessary to publicise IFFS throughout the world both with the professionals and for the public.

Intervention Elizabetta Randaccio FICC Italian Federation Intervention

Gabriel Rodriguez Mexico

Mohammed Mediouni Tunisian Film Societies

The Tunisian Federation of Film Societies has been in existence since the 1950s and all Tunisian film directors and most of the intellectuals took a role in Tunisian film societies. But I hesitated to speak, because although it is very important to talk about concrete matters,and whilst there are many technical and legal problems we must not forget what the film society movement represents, a sort of archipelago , a window on the world for the citizens to look to and look out of. In Jerusalem an arts centre was created with two venue, one for theatre and the other for cinema, a sort of cinematheque cum film society and in the war one of the first places to be targeted was this centre because of what it represented. So never forget the wider aspect of film societies when you are talking about the technical and legal problems.

Henriette Baldivia France Robert Richter is very disappointed by the lack of results with the Film Network idea and talks of imposing choices but I am totally against that. But there is another problem - each occasion that representatives from federations and film societies come here, they have good experiences, exchange views and are happy to play a part in an important movement but when they return to their federations and clubs they are not heard - I would propose that there should be a wider representation in that different colleagues should attend so that they could understand what we are about and take back the information. With regard to the problem of films, I prefer the idea of Marti Porter which he proposed regarding the Mediterranean Group, the exchange of films within the group because it would work. Because we work with the Spanish and the Catalan groups, we know them, we have also worked with the Italians.

Ivo Andrle said before we finish he wanted to thank all those in Reggio who had worked so hard to organise the event and then gave the floor to the Director of the University for Foreigners. After this Ivo said that we had to draw to a conclusion, but did not want to say ending, since the discussion should go on behind the cinema, and when we go home, I think we have some concrete proposals from the discussions today and these should be taken up the Executive committee so that some concrete results appear. I think we have all your email addresses so that we can send you notes of this discussion and you should also get copies of the minutes of the Executive meeting so that you can see what they are doing.

Janine Bertrand said maybe we will return to some of the questions and ideas in future, particularly that of Elizabetta about creating a public with and through the films we admire at the next meeting in Reggio.

Peter Cargin thanked the hardworking interpreters.