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Portrait of Georges Fondeur.UNICA 2013
President's Address

2012-2013 Address by Georges Fondeur

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

It is almost exactly a year since we met in Ruse (Bulgaria), with our friend Vladimir Iliev. We learned there that great things can be created without significant resources. What remains is the memory of a Congress, which was well planned but also pleasant and very successful. We all had a really good time in Ruse. Once again we heartily thank Vladimir Iliev and his team.

As in previous years the committee cannot complain of a lack of work.  Quite the opposite. Starting in Ruse, then at the meeting in Autumn 2012 (hosted by our friends Arie and Jan) and again at the Spring meeting (arranged by Zuzana Skoludova, who will host UNICA 2014) we were intensely busy with several topics, which all relate to how we can give this old lady, UNICA, a new impetus for her next 75 years.

UNICA Festival Changes: Young Professionals

First it was agreed in Heerlen that we should make an opening in our competition rules, albeit a tentative one, towards young professionals, provided they are under 30 years old and have not yet got a firm footing in the movie or television business.  Naturally they must also be connected with their national organization either as a club-member or individual member.

Now in Fieberbrunn it has been shown that this decision was correct. There were no fewer than 17 films of this type in the current festival. This emphasizes that there is in fact a place at UNICA for young authors who create short films under professional conditions and with public and / or private funding. The creation of such a category is no doubt a benefit in quality and marketing for our festival, thanks to the fine training of such authors and to increased media interest. It is, furthermore, an opportunity for national federations, who can now include entries from young "freelance" filmmakers in their official programs, without, however, neglecting the "pure amateurs" or depriving them of their chances for medals .
National Screening Times

We have also retained new screening times for 2013, confirming our finding that the rules introduced in 2011 were relatively complex to apply, and in some cases, such as for Germany, Poland and France could even cause problems. Therefore by a large majority, the committee decided to introduce a uniform one hour screening time for each country, inclusive of two-minute breaks between films. For 2013 we retained a special arrangement for The Netherlands, Belgium and Argentina, because under the old rules those three countries had earned more than 60 minutes and a reduction to 60 minutes would have been unjust. From 2014 onwards, all national programs are the same.

UNICA Reform

Furthermore, we investigated in great detail Art Hovanessian’s reform paper, which provided for major changes in terms of the structure, strategic direction, organization and activities of UNICA. I will not go into these at this point, since the reform paper was sent to all national organizations in three languages, together with a questionnaire and an associated commentary. Due to the rather belated delivery of these documents, documents which would undoubtedly have a significant impact on the future organization of UNICA, it is premature to engage with it today.

It may, in fact, still be a while before all national organizations have studied these documents in detail in their own bodies, and returned the questionnaire to the General Secretariat. To avoid additional delays before the committee can deal with the replies of federation officers, and also to avoid any suggestion of bias, we are passing replies for consideration in the first instance to a fresh person, someone knowledgeable and very experienced. So for the moment, the opinions expressed in the questionnaire will be analysed, and an attempt will be made to prepare a synthesis of the most important guiding themes for a future, such that we will get a gradual and sensible realignment of UNICA.

The person whose name immediately arose was, Kees Tervoort, the President of NOVA, also familiar as President of the 2012 Jury in Ruse and a candidate for the Committee. For some time now he has been entrusted by the Committee as a special advisor with the mission of preparing a reform paper for the coming years, based on the replies to the questionnaire and of course the National organizations’ own suggestions.

In this regard I must thank Art Hovanessian for his ideas, as the basis of which he intends that UNICA reposition itself with new ideas and proposals. Primarily this would be by opening up to the world, using new ways of strategic alignment, significantly improved marketing and communication, in order to become more attractive and visible for young people and professional filmmakers as well as sponsors and public authorities. Not least, however, his ideas would require that the statutes and regulations regarding participation in our annual festival would have to be radically changed and that larger sources of funding need to be developed, as well as requiring some sacrifice on the part of national organizations. In some cases the committee responded positively to suggestions and proposals, albeit with due caution and consideration.

I am firmly of the opinion that all of us in this hall are aware that a paradigm shift (type of rethinking) must be undertaken in the longer term, simply to avoid the risk of dwindling membership, dying clubs or even like some associations eventually reaching the point where our very existence is endangered.

However, the great majority of the Committee cannot believe that everything that has been recognized as good and right yesterday, is wrong and disastrous from today and into tomorrow. On the contrary, UNICA lives - as we see here once more in Fieberbrunn, where we have again witnessed excellent film programs from many countries around the world.

Other Committee Concerns: Korea

The Committee cannot accept the charge, that it was primarily, or in any way responsible for the mishap in Korea, as was reportedly the opinion of a few people. It should said here and now that we feel sorry for the film friends who had already joined a tour group to go, before or after the UNICA, on a discovery trip to China and had already paid in part for that. We are also sorry for those who had already booked their flight and hotel in Korea and are in a difficult position. However, it should be stressed here that these people were taking a significant financial risk, because at that time there was not even a registration form on the official website of the organizers.

A committee like ours, which sees itself as the executive organ of the umbrella organization of all members’ national federations, can only function well, when a trusting relationship is maintained between all its officers. Otherwise, a lot of precious time and energy is wasted resolving internal friction or even disagreement.

It is not important that we always agree on everything, but it is important that if a decision is taken, it is supported by all committee members. This is an elementary rule in a democratic organization and a prerequisite for a practical, open, relevant and promising process within the committee. All the more so because our Rules of Procedure, Article 4.7, state that a majority decision is binding on all members.

Summing Up and Thanks

UNICA has in its long and turbulent history faced many a storm and gone through troubled waters, which threatened its existence, and yet she has survived the rocks and shoals to circumnavigate all that without major damage. I am of the firm belief that it will remain so in the future. In fact, and in many places the UNICA is now in a better position than ever before, as is not least reflected in the fact that we have many candidates who are willing to organize the UNICA Congress for the next five or more years.

Three years tenure is long and short at the same time. For the elected committee there remain two full years to tackle some essential reforms, and to do so in discussion with and in full agreement with the affiliated associations. I expect that in Piestany in Slovakia, it will be necessary to have a general discussion of whatever important innovations are deemed necessary and recognized as important. We hope to prepare for this in the coming year with objectivity and with the necessary realism. For my part, I am proud to continue to be part of this team in all its components and I am confident that in the medium term we will bring the work we have begun to a satisfactory end.

However, I do not want to close without directly expressing my gratitude to my colleagues of the Committee, who for four years now, have managed with me the fate of UNICA and worked unselfishly for the good.

My special thanks go to our Secretary General, Jan Essing, as well as our Treasurer, Thomas Kräuchi, both in addition to their already time consuming tasks, worked tirelessly and steadfastly to locate a full-fledged replacement for Korea. They were actively supported in this campaign by Wolfgang Freier our “travelling emissary”. His role and his personal commitment are often insufficiently appreciated, and I hope that this recognition will change that.

Last but not least, I am, we are all, indebted in the highest degree to Alois Urbanek. After unsuccessful negotiations with many other associations, he never for a moment hesitated, and has brought the anniversary edition of UNICA to Austria. Dear Alois, you, the Central Committee of VÖFA and the team from Fieberbrunn have truly got us out of a jam. The past few days have shown that you have, despite all the time and other constraints, given the 75th UNICA a heart and soul, and what’s more a gleaming polish. Thank you so very much.

- Georges Fondeur