Helen de Witt
As a programmer of the BFI London Film Festival, it is with great concern that I have learnt of changes in the funding structure for cultural film in Austria. As I understand the situation, the leading experts on advisory council for Innovative Film Austria, who have led Austrian experimental, documentary and independent feature films to such international success, have been replaced by people who have no experience of this kind of work and its significance for the cultural heritage of Austrian film. The BFI London Film Festival has screened many films supported by the Innovative Film Austria over the years. I am now concerned, as a result of this change, that in future years there may be no representation from Austria in the UK’s foremost international film festival.
I also understand that funding for film festivals in Austria is under review. Again, this is an alarming situation as film festivals are a vital showcase for promoting new films by new filmmakers, helping them establish their national and international reputations.
I don’t understand why the list of qualified experts for these advisory councils who had been proposed by Innovative Film Austria seems to have been ignored. It seems foolhardy to risk Austria’s track record of producing some of the best global cultural filmmakers in this way. The gender balance also seem to be completely out of keeping with contemporary thinking about gender equality.
I would like to urge the Austrian authorities to reconsider this situation. It would be very sad to see Austrian film fall from its long held place close to the top of international filmmaking for experimental, documentary and independent feature films. It would also be damaging for the amazing filmmaking talent that continues to emerge for Austria to be jeopardised. This would be a loss to Austria but also a loss to the BFI London Film Festival and UK audiences, festivals around the world and international film culture itself.
Helen de Witt, Programme Advisor BFI London Film Festival (Experimenta), Lecturer in Film Studies Birkbeck University of London and University of the Arts London
Austrian Avant-garde and art house films has been very special for many filmmakers, academics, critics and general movie audience in Japan for over several decades for its daring and innovative approach to cinema. For an organization such as Image Forum who is dedicated to experimental films, Austrian films had until now always strong presence in the programming, both in our Image Forum Festival and our cinema Theatre Image Forum. Even our biggest hit in the cinema so far until now which gathered more than 30000 admissions in 37 weeks in 2007, is an Austrian film: Unser tägliches Brot by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. We had organized retrospectives of Austrian Avant-garde Cinema in collaboration with sixpackfilm in 1997 and 2012 which gave a strong impact to our film scene.
For a country such as Japan, which is very distant from Europe, Austria is very far away in people’s minds and people have relatively less knowledge of it. But we can say it’s definitely the films which had been helping giving strong impression on Austrian culture to people here.
We think it is not a very wise option to stop supporting your strong thriving innovative film culture and to decide to make your film culture a mundane one just like other countries. We demand strong support for the diversity and innovativeness of Austrian film.
Koyo Yamashita, Direktor des Image Forums, Tokio
Berlinale Forum / Arsenal Berlin
It comes as no surprise that Austrian films are a stable fixture in the programme of the Berlinale Forum, being the expression of a constant artistic quality – and at the same time the result of an intelligent funding policy: With the funding of the innovative film initiative at the Federal Chancellery, an instrument has been established for which the Austrian film industry has been the envy abroad, as it has enabled for aesthetically unusual work to develop.
As part of an international festival, Forum and Forum Expanded see themselves as a platform for films that venture into risky areas and take a stance.
Thus, world premieres of films by Ruth Beckermann, Sebastian Brameshuber, Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, Gustav Deutsch, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Johannes Holzhausen, Nina Kusturica, Ruth Mader, Karl Markovics, Bady Minck, Johann Lurf, Constanze Ruhm and Anja Salomonowitz have taken place here.
The current and proven structure needs competent brains in order to enable a huge variety of films with a courage for experimenting to be produced, shown and discussed.
Everything else would be fatal.
Milena Gregor, Birgit Kohler, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Head of the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin
Institute for Theatre, Film and Media Studies of the University on Vienna
The innovative creation of Austrian films, especially in the area of Avantgarde films, is not the only one celebrating regularly great successes on festivals.
Also, the science and publication on film is of an internationally recognised significance, for decades now having been carefully discussed and appreciated.
If the Federal Chancellery does not intent to put this image under risk, then the voted representatives need to have the informed competence in order to reflect upon their decisions with an awareness of past and present audiovisual creation.
It is for that reason that the TFM supports the matters of the IG Filmkultur.
Institute for Theatre, Film and Media Studies of the University on Vienna
To us, the independent, non-TV-dependent structure of the BKA Film Fund has always been a model of what a living film fund can look like and, in our opinion, it is precisely because it grants artistic freedom. It is the reason why Austrian film has been so internationally successful in recent years. The Austrian government would be well-advised to continue supporting this successful model, so that cinematic story-telling has a future.
Mikosch Horn, Main Association Cinephilie (Germany)
For more than two decades, we at REVOLVER film magazine have been dealing with international film-makers and their representatives. A number of our magazine issues have been devoted specifically to Austrian filmmakers and film productions because we consider Austria one of the most inspiring film nations in Europe and the world. Film funding plays a part in this that should not be underestimated. We therefore call upon the Minister to listen to the numerous voices of artists from all over the world and from Austria and to reconsider the appointees of the advisory board of the BKA’s “Department II/3 – Film”.
Revolver, Magazine for Film
Since the invention of the film camera, experimental film has been an important component in film culture. And due to society’s success in supporting it with public funds, it has also become a self-evident part of film funding. Not taking this fact into account when appointing the new Advisory Board members of the BKA Filmförderung 2019 is not only negligent, but also demonstrates a pronounced ignorance of the history and economy of film. Therefore: film authors (or even better, film artists) should be appointed to the advisory board!
It is indispensable to all film and culture programmers in Europe and elsewhere to be reassured about the continuation of the great Austrian innovative, experimental and Autor film tradition. This can be obtained only through an adequate choice of experts.
Marie-Pierre Duhamel, Independent film programmer and lecturer (France / China)
Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria
To the Austrian Minister of Culture and the Arts:
This letter could be just made out of names: all the ones of Austrian artists that all over the years, have been renovating internationally the frames and definitions of art and cinema. This letter could be made just out of titles: the titles of all the incredible films, videos, or art experiences, that have been renovating for decades what we thought it was already defined. It´s on your hands to keep this fertile and innovative culture alive, or to make it disappear.
Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria, Artistic Director Cineteca Madrid
On & For Production and Distribution & Auguste Orts
We have come to hear of the Austrian concern regarding the precarious situation of innovative film support in Austria and the lack of voices that represent artistic and experimental films on the jury of the various Austrian film councils that fund films or festivals. And in response to this news, we would like to show our support for your cause with this letter from Auguste Orts and myself.
As you know, I’m† coordinating a European cooperative project called On & For Production and Distribution which is conceived to advance and strengthen the field of artists’ moving images and which has been made possible with the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
The project brings together a team of four partners: Auguste Orts (BE), Kaunas International Film Festival (LT), LUX and LUX Scotland (UK), and Nordland Kunst -og Filmfagskole (NO). Each partner
represents the different contexts under which artists’ moving image is taught, produced, exhibited, distributed and collected. Together, over the course of 3 years, we are creating events that bring together the various professionals that nourish the field of artists’ moving image: artists, students and teachers, producers and distributors, curators and programmers, and representatives of arts and film organizations and funds. We unite, therefore, a varied professional audience of people who all play a part in the support of innovative film production and distribution across Europe.
Recently, we had the pleasure of inviting Gerald Weber of sixpackfilm to Brussels in order to present and share knowledge of the exemplary practice of your organization during a seminar called: Distribution Models, 26 April 2019. During the seminar, we learned about how sixpackfilm operates: its distribution model, facts and figures. It was a generous presentation of a successful organization that other such organizations can aspire to in the way you acquire films for your collection— through a democratic process of regular open calls and changing juries— the success of Sixpackfilm’s farreaching distribution catalogue, the share of distribution revenue between artist and organization being majoritively for the artist, and the care given to all works in the collection, analogue and digital, and the active digitization of the collection. The presentation affirmed how, from many other vantage points in Europe. sixpacksilm’s working methods and results are very much to be looked up to.
This said, however, we’re aware that the success of such an organization first lies with the artists’ moving image work itself and the scene that supports it. Without the support for innovative film, the field would be taking a huge and regrettable step backwards. If artists are not supported and encouraged to make innovative film, then the organizations, collectives, and associations that produce, exhibit, and distribute such works would, too, become obsolete. As an artist-run platform that has been actively supporting, producing, exhibiting and distributing artists’ moving image since 2006, Auguste Orts empathizes with this threat to like-minded film production and distribution practitioners and organizations on the European moving image scene.
As concerned colleagues, we hope that you will be able to turn things around and find the national support necessary to keep the thriving field of innovative film practice, production, and diffusion in Austria alive. And we stand in solidarity with your quest.
Rebecca Jane Arthur, Project Coordinator. On & For Production and Distribution
Marie Logie, Director. Auguste Orts
Javier Porta Fouz
Throughout its 21 editions, the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (BAFICI) has built a passionate bond with Austrian cinema -especially with its most avant-garde and risky expressions-, translated into retrospectives, visits, books and many other forms of collaboration with the actors and institutions of one of the most fertile, diverse and recognized film scenes in the world. That’s why we at BAFICI see with concern the recent events that threaten the rich tradition of Austrian cinema as well as its future, and express our unconditional support to IG Filmkultur’s petition.
Javier Porta Fouz, Artistic Director. BAFICI – Buenos Aires Int. Independent Film Festival
Institut für Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft der Universität Wien
Das innovative Filmschaffen aus Österreich, besonders im Bereich des experimentellen und Avantgardefilms, feiert nicht nur regelmäßig große Festivalerfolge. Es ist auch in der Filmwissenschaft und -publizistik eine international anerkannte Größe, die seit Jahrzehnten aufmerksam diskutiert und gewürdigt wird. Will das Bundeskanzleramt diesen Ruf nicht aufs Spiel setzen, dann müssen die ernannten Vertreter_innen über die fachliche Kompetenz verfügen, um die von ihnen zu treffenden Entscheidungen im Bewusstsein von Geschichte und Gegenwart künstlerischer Filmgestaltung reflektieren zu können. Aus diesem Grund unterstützt das TFM entschieden die Anliegen der IG Filmkultur.
Institut für Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft der Universität Wien
Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona
Dear Minister of Culture and the Arts,
I am writing on behalf of Xcèntric, the cinema of the CCCB (Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, Spain), dedicated to experimental, avant-garde and creative documentary films.
Created in 2001, Xcèntric is the CCCB’s steady film program, with regular screenings throughout the winter and spring, and year-round activities, such as workshops, lectures and publications. Xcèntric is a reference screen for the ‘other cinema’ with an international reputation. It has a very faithful audience and it is very much respected by the film specialists worldwide. Its original programming gives visibility to visionary works that help to push the boundaries of cinema.
Throughout these two decades, Xcèntric has repeatedly worked with sixpackfilm, building a trustful relationship. Thanks to their valuable task on film conservation and distribution of Austrian filmmakers’ work, Xcèntric has been able to acknowledge a wide range of talented artists, otherwise unknown. Austrian experimental cinema has achieved worldwide recognition thanks, in part, to the curated and attention-to-detailed job of institutions such as sixpackfilm. In our almost 20 years of film programming, we have included many Austrian filmmakers in our sessions, such as Johann Lurf or Kurt Kren.
The Xcèntric Archive is a unique, curated collection of experimental, avant-garde and documentary films with over a thousand titles. The Archive’s aim is for experimental cinema to reach an audience as wide as possible, contributing to a broader knowledge of experimental cinema. The Archive includes many films from the sixpackfilm collection that we have been acquiring over the years, such as Peter Tscherkassky, Valie Export or Mara Mattuschka.
We firmly believe that in all these years Austria has achieved worldwide recognition thanks to its experimental and avantgarde films and artists. To expressly underline the international significance of Austrian film and in particular the films that have been supported by Innovative Film Austria, we write this statement to support the quality and diversity of Austrian cinema.
Carolina López, Xcèntric director. Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona
Karlovy Vary International Filmfestival
With great concern we follow recent events in Austrian film institutions, namely in the two advisory bodies which decides about funding of highly unconventional, aesthetically innovative film projects and funding of film festivals. Reviewing applications in any committee demands deep knowledge of the related field of interest. It is even more important for the niche field of experimental cinema which necessarily lays outside of means of production in TVs and commercial sphere. Major changes in advisory councils, where detailed knowledge of contemporary world cinema and its various trends no longer seems to be essential condition, undermines the long tradition of rich and diverse Austrian film culture in which some of the most important artistic figures might suddenly lose their voice.
Karel Och, artistic director.
Martin Horyna, programmer.
The values I associate with Austrian cinema area a joy in experimentation, an incredible formal awareness, impressive breadth and a wonderfully critical view of both Austria and the world, which make the new appointments to the advisory council for Innovative Film Austria all the more worrying. For more than 10 years I have been selecting Austrian films for the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, including those of Peter Tscherkassky, Johann Lurf, Martin Arnold, Lisl Ponger, Gustav Deutsch, Siegfried A. Fruhauf and Maria Lassnig, and the prospect that this rich, internationally significant seam of filmmaking may run dry seems both an incredible shame and a cultural scandal waiting to happen. I give my full support to the petition initiated by IG FilmKultur.
Cecilia Barrionuevo, Artistic Director – Mar del Plata International Film Festival
At Trento Film Festival, which having been found in 1952 is the second oldest in Italy after Venice, and is still the leading event devoted to mountain films in Europe, we always had a specific interest for Austrian cinema, given the geographical and cultural proximity and the shared Alpine landscape. As the Trento festival Head of Program, but previously also a programmer at the Venice and then Locarno festivals, I particularly followed, appreciated and whenever possible presented, various works supported by Innovative Film Austria, an institution which got to stand, within the global film community, for groundbreaking quality and vision. I, therefore, wish it will be allowed to carry on its amazing work and hopefully even improve its vital support to Austrian cinema, indirectly inspiring as well artists, filmmakers, and audiences well beyond the borders of your country.
Sergio Fant, Head of Program, Trento Film Festival (Italy)
Giona A. Nazzaro
To whom it may concern,
The news coming from Austria are indeed shocking ones. We have learned to love Austria and its tradition as a forward-thinking country that has always supported artists and innovative art. The decision of the Austrian Minister of Culture from the conservative, right-wing coalition government to replace members of two film-related advisory councils is beyond comprehension. Austria has always been at the vanguard of artistic freedom and freedom of expression. This decision seriously endangers art and artists. And threatens the possibility that the world has to enjoy the creations of the brave Austrian artists and filmmakers. If culture and creation are treated as run of the mill goods, then there will be no more protection against a massification of the minds and taste. As General Delegate of the International Critics’ Week in Venice I do strongly hope that the Minister will go back on his decisions and listen to the numerous appeals that are coming from artists all over the world and Austria. The Austrian film heritage and culture is something to be cherished and protected. Not something to fight. Art, cinema, beauty, ideas have no nation. These values belong to all of us. These decisions shape and affect the future we will be living in.
Please reconsider this ill-informed decision and listen to who knows better.
Respectfully, but upset and deeply worried
Giona A. Nazzaro, General Delegate,
Settimana Internazionale della Critica Venezia (Venice Int’l Critics Week)
Austria is well renowned in the international film community for its strong innovative cinema over the past decades and is still to this date. A big reason for this has been the ongoing and strong support of the sector by cultural funding, which allowed filmmakers to work without artistic limitations. In my work as a curator I have screened a high number of Austrian short films over the years and I hope this will remain the same in the years to come.
Wouter Jansen – Some Shorts distribution, Freelance film curator, the Netherlands
As curator for a public institution in France, I consider that it is our duty to preserve art in all its diversity. Austria’s innovative film production has proved until today to be one of the key players in Europe and has been seen from all around the world as one of the most prolific and rich. The current situation with the nominations of a new board at the advisory council is more than alarming for the film community. At the time of a generalized globalization, it is more than important to keep promoting and supporting our cultural specificities and excellence.
Jonathan Pouthier, Curator, Centre Pompidou. Paris
On behalf of Anthology Film Archives, I’d like to voice my concern regarding the changes that have taken place to the funding councils for Innovative Film Austria and Austrian film festivals. Anthology’s entire mission is based on the conviction that truly independent, non-commercial artistic creation is crucial to the health and vibrancy of a culture, however under-appreciated it may be within mainstream society. Austria has long been extraordinary for being one of the very few societies in the world that has genuinely valued and supported its independent, avant-garde filmmakers, resulting in an uncompromising and innovative cinematic community that is admired around the world. At Anthology, which was co-founded by the great Austrian director Peter Kubelka among others, we have happily hosted and presented works by independent Austrian filmmakers on a regular basis since we opened almost 50 years ago. Thanks in large part to the support (both financial and moral) that is available to independent filmmakers in Austria, these programs have consistently been a crucial part of our programming, and Austrian experimental cinema has continued to be among the richest and most vibrant in the world. I’m hopeful that this aspect of Austrian culture will continue to be valued and supported as it so richly deserves, and this can only be achieved by placing the decisions in the hands of those whose familiarity with and dedication to innovative Austrian cinema makes them qualified to judge.
Jed Rapvogel, Anthology Film Archives. New York
Innovative, experimental film has a great tradition and presence in Austria. Artists such as Valie Export, Peter Kubelka, and Kurt Kren whose works are anchored in the Austrian intellectual history of modernism belong to the international avant-garde. They laid the foundation for today’s internationally influential film artists from Dietmar Brehm to Lotte Schreiber. Without this media-reflexive artistic practice to which we owe overwhelmingly beautiful screen moments, the cultural heritage of this country and its interdisciplinary contemporary art would be much poorer.
Stella Rollig, General Director – Austrian Gallery Belvedere
It is immensely important that the institutions that have an impact on cultural values keep the sense of these values alive. I think that this is the core of their mission. There are many cultures living side by side – rich and poor, popular and uncomfortable, profitable and unassuming – and they all need to be respected in order to keep the cultural ecosystem alive. (And all forms and formats of what used to be called counterculture should never be excluded.) Otherwise we get just a boring, profit-oriented product of a populist conspiracy.
For various decisions we need various experts – with their original experience, knowledge, and taste. Cultural decisions are not made for the moment, but for the future. However optimistic this might sound, we should not reduce the future according to particular tasks of the present.
Austrian cinema deserves an open-minded and well-respected boards of experts /decision makers who will be knowledgeable about the current reputation and also the potential of Austrian films, film-makers, film institutions, and film events.
Michal Bregant, CEO. Národní filmový archiv/National Filmarchive Prague
Au coeur de notre vieille Europe, le cinéma autrichien nous réserve de bonnes surprises avec des films qui souvent de formes hybrides entre documentaire et fiction, explorent de nouveaux récits et fabriquent de nouvelles mythologies. Ces films éminemment contemporains, souvent reconnus par les festivals du monde entier sont essentiels, indispensables au cinéma mais aussi pour chacun d’entre nous. Le support de Innovative Film Austria doit continuer à leur permettre de voir le jour en toute liberté !
Catherine Bizern, artistic director Cinéma du Réel, Paris
IT WOULD BE THE END IF THESE TWO ADVISORY BOARDS WERE OCCUPIED BY SUCH PERSONS. WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE IN DOING SO?
ARE EXPERTS NO LONGER IN DEMAND?
THANK YOU MR. BLÜMEL. LG ERNI MANGOLD
It is with genuine shock and dismay that I hear about the announcement of the replacement of most members of the two Austrian film-related advisory committees, and the injurious effect this is already having on the Austrian film culture, and starting to have internationally as we hear about it. Austria has one of the most dynamic and important film cultures in the world today, one that really is the envy of most countries internationally. I dare say its experimental film heritage, and the exciting voices present in it today, is as vital to Austrian cultural heritage as Mozart, Klimt or Freud. Over the years it has gained significant exposure at the Melbourne International Film Festival (where I was Director for ten years) and other Australian institutions, with many Austrian filmmakers visiting the festival and taking part in workshops with film students, etc. Not to mention the unparalleled voyage Austrian independent, documentary and experimental cinema has taken at significant festivals around the world. Please strongly reconsider this decision, Austrian cinema is too vital to be destroyed.
Michelle Carey (senses of cinema, filmcritic)
David E. James
One of my areas of academic specialization is avant-garde cinema, which I teach on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and on which I have published some twelve books. In my courses and writings, I refer to the cinemas of US, UK, France, Germany, and Austria. Austrian cinema has an unmatched global importance and many Austrian filmmakers are globally recognized as among the most innovative, radical and influential of all time. Peter Kubelka and Kurt Kren are both axioms of cinema, and younger filmmakers such as Martin Arnold, Valie Export, and Peter Tscherkassky (to mention only those I feature regularly in my teaching) continue to make Austria an center of world cinema. . . . .
David E. James, Professor. University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Alejandro Díaz Castaño
Austrian experimental, avant-garde and author filmmaking is one of the more lively, riskiest and innovative ones at an international level, thanks to the work of both veteran and upcoming creators such as Peter Tscherkassky, VALIE EXPORT, Peter Kubelka, Michaela Grill or Johann Lurf, among many other names, most of them distributed by Sixpack, one of the most prestigious companies in this field worldwide. It is very important that we keep on supporting these creators, who are opening new paths in contemporary cinema and enriching our experiences as spectators and film lovers.
Alejandro Díaz Castaño – 57th Gijon International Film Festival Director – FICX
Depuis plus de quinze années désormais à la tête du Festival International de Cinéma de Marseille (FIDMarseille), j’ai eu l’honneur et le plaisir d’accueillir à chaque édition plusieurs films autrichiens. Ce dont je me réjouis, chaque année, au vu de leur qualité et de leur singularité qui font toute leur importance. Ces films, documentaires, fictions, expérimentaux, ont été soutenus à plusieurs étapes de leur fabrication par un organisme remarquable : le fonds autrichien de films innovatifs. J’ose espérer que cet organisme précieux pourra poursuivre sa tâche auprès de ce que le cinéma autrichien compte de plus spécifique.
Permettez-moi ce mot de soutien pour saluer l’ouvrage considérable de Barbara Fränzen à la tête du Département Cinéma de son pays. Elle est notamment l’initiatrice du Fonds au Cinéma Innovatif, structure extrêmement précieuse qui permet et soutient une production cinématographique nationale diversifiée, fortement originale, qui fait la singularité du cinéma autrichien.
Direktor FID Marseille Festival Internationale du Cinema
Maike Mia Höhne
Over the past years, I have selected a great variety of experimental, innovative Austrian films for the Berlinale Shorts as the curator of the Berlinale Shorts for the Golden Bear competition regarding „Best Short Film”. The great peculiarity for which not only artists from Germany envy their geographical neighbours, but filmmakers from around the world somewhat long for a possibility of this sort, is the opportunity to produce innovative films, because they are government-funded. It is friendly envy of a curious type.
These films are professionally brought into the elitist league of A film festivals by such excellent distributors as Sixpack, and from the festivals they continue to go all over the world. The film artists from Austria are well-known worldwide for their experimental, innovative, scientifically-analytical film. Every year, a large number of works are produced, thus securing the high level of research and the further development of film. There is no other funding system worldwide that is so firmly dedicated to innovation. These films, this research can only take place because these funds exist, which are granted by experts of the form itself, the innovative film.
Moving image is the future. There is no future without innovation. It is therefore of great importance that it is secured his support will not cease and that it continues to be staffed by specialists in the different bodies. It is important that the funding remains in its broad and diverse form.
I have followed the recent restaffing of the committees with great concern. It needs experts of the innovative film in the funding committee of the innovative film in order to guarantee the high quality of the artworks. Greek language would never be taught by a French teacher.
Maike Mia Höhne
Artistic Director KurzFilmFestival Hamburg
(former Director of the section Berlinale Shorts)
Since the 1980s, innovative Austrian film has received increasing attention worldwide. This is not only due to the awards at international festivals, to retrospectives, and to their purchase by renowned cinematheques and museums, but also due to publications on innovative Austrian works in relevant film and art magazines. The great interest in Austria’s contemporary avant-garde, documentary, and short film production, as well as in innovative feature films, has also been documented in numerous international studies (including various catalogues and book publications in several languages). There is no doubt that Austria’s film culture reputation today is built on these “small” film formats.
Against the background of my knowledge of the history and presence of Austrian film, I would like to emphasise the central function that the funding bodies, the BKA in particular, have with regard to the preservation of this internationally highly-recognised spectrum. When appointing the appropriate committees, the level of competence of the members in question must first and foremost be taken into account. A lively and diverse film culture does not come into being overnight, but it can most certainly be compromised within a very short period of time. I urge you to consider the long-term future effects, as well as your film history–those in this world who are committed to preserving a cultural heritage through film will thank you for it!
Christa BlümlingerProfessor of Film Studies
University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis
Austria has one of the most thriving experimental film communities, and among the most talented innovative film artists today, as well as an internationally recognized august history. Each year, I look forward to the latest crop of experimental, artist film and video coming from Austria in my job at TIFF and for various curatorial projects. These artist-filmmakers are at the forefront of an important international discourse and it is imperative that their projects be funded by experts in the field, who can recognize their importance and singular contribution. Art is not a matter of bureaucracy, and should be attended to accordingly.
Senior Film Curator
Curator, Wavelengths; Co-curator, Platform
Toronto International Film Festival
In the past decades, Austria was an exceptional film country. Its film-making is characterized by the inclusion of all genres and by innovation that has never been achieved in other countries. Filling seats on the film funding advisory board with people who do not represent an openness to film culture is a direct attack on diversity and tolerance. In the interest of the freedom of art in an open society–and the international reputation of the Austrian Republic associated with it–, one can only hope that the (apparently almost exclusively male) decision-makers become aware of not only their power, but also of their responsibility.
Prof. Dr. Fred Truniger
Head of the Master’s Department in Film, Lucerne College of Applied Arts and Sciences – Design & Art
There is no need to underline once more the greatness of Austrian culture. Names such as Karl Kraus, Adolf Loos, Arnold Schönberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Ilse Aichinger, Ingeborg Bachmann, Robert Musil, Egon Schiele, Elfriede Jelinek, Arnulf Rainer, to name but a few, are the reasons why, from abroad, we love and respect Austria.
It is the same phenomenon in the field of film culture: yesterday Max Reinhardt, Leontine Sagan, Erich Von Stroheim, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Karl Grune, Peter Kern, today Peter Kubelka, Kurt Kren, Otto Muehl, Dietmar Brehm, Peter Tscherkassky, Mara Mattuschka, Gustav Deutsch, Siegfried A. Fruhauf, Elke Groen and so many others are the honor of the history of cinema.
For its own greatness, to prove that it lives up to Austria’s own history, the duty of the actual Austrian State is to protect, preserve, support and respect by all means its artistic past and the living artists. This includes the minimal gesture of appointing competent people to the appropriate places.
Sorbonne nouvelle University
La Cinémathèque française
To the Austrian Minister of Culture and the Arts:
I’m shocked and appalled by your decision to ignore and abandon the traditions that have made Austria the most sophisticated and accomplished purveyor and promoter of experimental cinema in the world in exchange for a form of mainstream mediocrity that will remove Austria from the status of being any sort of beacon and exemplar and will make it indistinguishable from other countries–or perhaps even behind most of them in its race towards the bottom (by which I mean the bottom line). Please reconsider your drastic and destructive decision.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic (Chicago, U.S.A.)
Filmredaktion ZDF/ARTE, Dr. Catherine Colas
Dear Mr. Minister Blümel,
Dear Sir or Madam,
The strengthof a film culture always prospers from its domestic breeding ground and its international networking.
It will hence not surprise you that our concerned Austrian colleagues have drawn our attention to the replacement of the film funding committee of the Austrian Federal Chancellery.
We share our colleagues’ concern that these changes and the newly-appointed committee jeopardise an integral part of the success story of Austrian cinema productions.
From our – indeed somewhat envious – perspective, the extraordinary success of Austrian film bears heavily upon the strength of its funding bodies which has recently again been confirmed by the selection of the ARTE co-production „Little Joe“ by Jessica Hausner for the competition at Cannes Film Festival.
Funding committees are only then strong if they are independent as well as competent and equipped with sufficient resources. Even a watering pot is of no use to anyone at this point.
With short or feature films, experimental pieces or conventionally narrated fiction films, we have regularly benefitted from the innovative power of Austrian cinema in the past: whether by purchase of licences or by international awards of co-productions, such as:
„Hotel“ by Jessica Hausner
„Licht“ by Barbara Albert
„Entschuldigung, ich suche den Tischtennisraum und meine Freundin“ by Bernhard
„Copy Shop“ by Virgil Widrich
The film funding committee of the Austrian Federal Chancellery already supported the short films of Jessica Hausner and Barabra Albert already years ago. In this way, not only the experimental film but also the innovative film language of promising directors has immensely been supported over decades which has led to international success.
For the purpose of a strengthening of the European film, we ask you to reconsider the changes regarding the funding bodies and to maintain and even invigorate the funding in its range, substance, competence and innovative strength. This would serve not only the Austrian film, but the entire co-production sector throughout Europe.
Editorial film department ZDF/ARTE, Dr. Catherine Colas
Lars Henrik Gass
Ich schließe mich der Erklärung der IG Filmkultur an. Filmkultur darf nicht dem Einfluss des Fernsehens oder anderer wirtschaftlicher Interessen unterstellt werden. Außerdem muss der Anteil von Frauen an kulturellen Entscheidungen erhöht werden.
In Österreich hat man sehr früh verstanden, dass künstlerischen wie wirtschaftlichen Interessen je besser gedient ist, wenn man sie trennt. Das hat sowohl künstlerisch wie wirtschaftlich zu überzeugenderen Ergebnissen geführt und, erstaunlich genug, auch zu einer gegenseitigen Befruchtung. Die geplante Vermischung gefährdet diese Entwicklung.“
Lars Henrik Gass, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen
Dear Minister Blümel,
Austrian cinematography has many faces and one of them is certainly that of innovative film. This film genre depends on the talented authors who have been researching the forms and meanings of film language for years. Naturally, these works are largely dependent on support from the state since they must be engendered outside commercial milieus.
This support refers not only to financial aspects, but also to the professionalism and expertise of decision-makers. For this very reason, we support IG Filmkultur in their efforts to represent Austrian film with qualified personnel–without any political influence.
Austrian innovative film, together with its authors, has participated in the entire program of the 25 FPS Festival for experimental film and video since the festival was founded in 2005. For over 10 years, we have been following its growth, its increasing development, and the constant recognition that Austrian filmmakers receive worldwide.
We hereby appeal to those in power to reconsider their decision. The innovative film, seen in the global cinematographic society, is synonymous with one of the most interesting forms of Austrian identity.
Mario Kozina, Sanja Grbin, Marina Kožul, Branka Valjin
International Experimental Film and Video Festival, Zagreb Croatia, curators and producers
Mark Toscano, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
A major strength of historical and contemporary Austrian cinema has been its dedication to experimentation, artistic and technical advancement, and diverse perspectives, and many of Austria’s greatest films and filmmakers working for these principles have been doing so from an independent or non-commercial standpoint. These filmmakers working in this manner have given Austrian cinema the international acclaim that it enjoys.
The recent actions of the Minister of Culture to inappropriately overhaul Austria’s film advisory councils has now placed the attitude of these councils squarely in the realm of the predictably commercial, the mainstream, and the gender-biased in a way that does not reflect the innovation and independent voice of Austria’s robust and legendary film and arts community. Innovation and artistic excellence comes strongly and predominantly from independent voices pushing boundaries and trying new things, and it is extremely disappointing that these actions undermine this completely.
I protest this approach and urge the Minister to reconsider these actions, that the film councils should reflect a proper representation of gender, viewpoint, and artistic and social empathy.
Mark Toscano, Archivist, Curator, and Film Professor
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Experimental (innovative) film has a long tradition and is also an essential figurehead of Austrian artistic creation.
Ideas from art film in which experimentation and testing were and continue to be carried out have subsequently appeared in other areas of film and media such as advertising. In addition, the works of VALIE EXPORT, Mara Mattuschka, Peter Tscherkassky, Peter Kubelka, Friedl vom Gröller and Siegfried Fruhauf, Johann Lurf, Lotte Schreiber, Sasha Pirker, and Sabine Marte for example, also contain cinematic and social reflections that keep the film industry and its confrontations with film alive today.
Barbara Steiner, Director Kunsthaus Graz
Democracy and Freedom are fundamental values that must be constructed everyday, through every sector of society, and fundamentally through an active and conscious citizenship. Film, in its different forms and genres, is a very effective tool for that collective growth – free and independent creation is a condition for it.
Austrian independent filmmaking has been inspiring across the world – along the years, we have seen a very rich diversity in forms, a very deep commitment to the most dignified values, in a surprisingly innovative amount of films. Also, Austria hosts some of the most important film events in the world, that along the years have been examples of independence and quality.
Therefore, we at Doclisboa – International Film Festival strongly repudiate any political interference concerning the artistic criteria for film funding, as well as the current shift in the criteria for the choice of juries, in particular for the Innovative Film Austria fund. We consider this a very negative sign of political manipulation of culture and arts, of a clear attack against a precious patrimony and community, that has proved to be serious, dedicated and internationally relevant.
We express our solidarity to all the Austrian colleagues who stand for independent and free artistic creation, and we remind the Austrian government that Austrian Cinema is not their possession, it is an international richness that we shall defend.
Cintia Gil, Director DocLisboa
The films of innovative artists supported by the Federal Chancellery’s Film Fund are an integral part of the exhibition programs and collections of Austrian museums. In recent months, Lentos has been able to present or acquire the outstanding films of the renowned filmmakers Dietmar Brehm, Josef Dabernig, VALIE EXPORT, and Peter Kubelka.
Hemma SchmutzArtistic Director Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz
JI.HLAVA INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Austria has been one of the most important world centres for diverse cinema for decades. There are tens of authors and hundreds of films, especially the avant-garde films, that has shifted the face of world cinema. Distribution company sixpackfilm is one of the 10 most important distributors of experimental films in the world and their collection and new films every year are always important part of programming of Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival. Every year, our festival screens films from Austria which were produced with the support of Innovative Film representing a wide range of artistic approaches and a sense and drive to explore the means of cinema in all its varieties. We appreciate the great sensitivity, education, deep knowledge of history and contemporary trends in cinema that distributors, curators, programmers and academics from Austria have represented along with these films for a long time.
(Marek Howorka, director. Petr Kubica, program director. Andrea Slovakova, programmer.
Katarina Holubcova, executive director. Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival
My name is Thomas Logoreci. I’m an Albanian-American filmmaker, cinema writer and film festival programmer and curator living and working in Eastern Europe. I have been apprised of the recent situation in which the Austrian Culture Ministry has replaced the qualified members of the film-related advisory council. I am very concerned by this unfortunate decision. I have added my name to the on-line petition. I ask that that the Ministry reconsider this action and grant these vital positions to those in the motion picture field who are best capable of fulfilling these duties.
Thomas Logoreci, Filmmaker