Dear Film Friends,
A new year has just begun. And it can be expected that it will be as stimulating - or even exciting as the past year.
Many items have been listed on the agenda of the Committee and not all of them will be ready to be submitted for deliberation at the General Assembly to be held in late August 2014 in Piešťany, Slovakia. Debating on some of these points is not possible without prior active involvement of the national organizations. The Committee will nevertheless spare no efforts to create the platform necessary for this purpose. Some specific items call for short commentary.
The 75th UNICA Congress in Fieberbrunn goes on providing excellent food for memory. However - as often happens during such events - there is some kind of incident that tarnishes the wealth of positive images. We refer here to the film Meru lebt by Bernhard Girsberger which was all the rage in Fieberbrunn. A few weeks after the competition, the Swiss author was convicted of plagiarism: he had heavily borrowed from an off-the-shelf DVD. Our little sphere of independent film-making, that had hitherto been kept intact suddenly collapsed. Without the insight of a prominent member of the French federation acting with full support of this organisation, this sham could have endured for some time. This affair obviously raises the question of whether and to what extent other authors made themselves guilty of the same kind of fraud.
Modern media and advanced technology in post-production make it possible for unscrupulous persons to cheat and tamper with other people's work with such accuracy that the trick may escape the attention of the most vigilant observer. As a consequence, our Committee will have to decide in the near future and say to what extent the data provided on the film registration form should be modified and include - next to the signature of the president of the federation - a statement by which the author of the film solemnly warrants that he/she has all the rights relating to the film. In addition to this, we should consider whether, in cases of serious offenses, it would be appropriate to introduce sanctions against the author or even his/her federation if the latter is held jointly liable for the fraud - in the form of e.g. temporary suspension.
Another fact that may not remain hidden any longer relates to the more or less professional nature of some works entered for the Contest. It is no longer tolerable films that were produced in a top film school or those whose professional filmmakers do not match the age rules are not clearly marked as such on the registration forms. Fortunately, this kind of event concerns only a tiny minority of federations. Yet, due to the absence of clear indications, such federations may nurture doubts and sometimes cause resentment, especially among the federations and filmmakers advocating hardcore amateurism. It might be necessary - for their sake - to review some relevant provisions among the competition rules, in particular by awarding to the jury more flexibility and discretionary power when evaluating films.
The draft of the proposed reform, together with a questionnaire and relevant comments, was sent to all national federations in July 2013 and it has been the subject of many discussions since then. These answers are being closely analyzed by our special advisor Kees Tervoort. A quick overview of the comment and suggestions submitted shows that opinions cover a large spectrum, ranging from a desire to maintain the present-day situation to a call for the dismantling of our organisation and its current structures. We never thought that the gap between extreme positions would be so wide. It follows that the quest for the realistic and mutually acceptable changes that the majority calls for will be a real challenge and there is a long way to go.
Surely many people have already visited the website of the 76th World Festival in Piešťany in 2014 and had the opportunity of collecting information about accommodation and the conditions for registration. Some have already completed the registration form and booked in a hotel. As there is no reason to fear a repeat of the mishap we faced in 2013 with Korea, the organizing committee chaired by Zuzana Školudová kindly request participants to register as early as possible for the sake of efficient planning. Anyway, the UNICA Committee firmly believes that our Slovak friends will offer a most varied and enjoyable Congress.
The preparations for 2015 are already well underway. The Committee meeting to be held next June in St. Petersburg will be an opportunity for us to confirm this information and clarify some specific questions with the Russian organizers. We will also visit the venue and gain assurance that the physical conditions imposed by our regulations are all met, be it concerning the conference hall and accommodation and, where appropriate, the public transport services between the hotels and the conference hall. The members of the team - Nina Zaitseva and Vyacheslav Zaytsev and also Julia Obraztsova - are very-well known to us, like good old friends, and we are sure that they will offer adequate answers to all our questions.
We will also have to examine with the Russian authorities the visa delivery issue, considering that a tourist visa for the Russian Federation currently costs € 76. We will explore the possibility of obtaining a preferential fee for UNICA participants. We will also have to ascertain that participants from all countries will be allowed to travel to Russia. This is an absolute prerequisite for the award and the holding of a UNICA Congress.
Thanks to Thomas Kräuchi's sense of commitment, all the selected films arrived in perfect condition in Bern, Switzerland to be stored in the premises of the library of the Lichtspiel association. The conditions for lending and copying films - that were set out in my letter 3/13 issued last November - have therefore come in force as of the day of publication.
On behalf of the committee:
Luxembourg, February 2014.