National Film Centre of Latvia is under the threat of reorganization

By Daira Abolina

    The financial crisis in Latvia has triggered a chain of reorganization of cultural institutions that threatens the existence of the National Film Centre of Latvia (NFC) as an independent establishment.

    NFC (www.nfc.lv) was established in 1991 as a state budget institution and formed after a model of similar European institutions. It is the only state source of funding for the Latvian film industry, supporting the development and competitiveness of Latvian films as well as promoting the participation of Latvia in European support programmes of audiovisual field (MEDIA and Eurimages) and performing other vitally important industry's functions.

    Several European film industry organizations have already expressed their disapproval of a proposed restructuring the National Film Centre of Latvia into a department of the Ministry of Culture. Opponents fear it would no longer be politically independent.

    In the bulletin, released by the managing director of NFC Ilze Gailite-Holmberga on August 10, the European Film Agency Directors' (EFADs) network writes: "The closing of the National Film Centre would most probably have a negative influence on the co-operation platform Baltic Films; as well as severely affect the Baltic Sea Documentary Forum, a brilliant initiative of National Film Centre, as the event could not further benefit from European Union MEDIA programme support."

    The head of the Association of Slovene Film Workers Igor Korsic stated, "I am convinced that it is of utmost importance that we react most vigorously to the first liquidation of a film institute in the EU. It is clear that a film institute is a crucial instrument for most countries to preserve their film culture. .. Even if our protests probably will not save Latvia, we must strenghten our forces of solidarity against such barbaric tendencies. They are aimed at weakening our multicultural Europe." Support has also been received from the Lithuanian Association of Independent Producers and Austrian Film Institute.

    Latvian film professionals have prepared a supporting plan of action. On August 12, an impromptu film set will be created in the centre of Riga outside the Ministry of Culture during the the next discussions between Latvian film institutions and the Minister of Culture Ints Dalderis. The majority of the leading Latvian filmmakers have confirmed their participation in the action, including Laila Pakalnina, Antra Cilinska, Reinis Kalnaellis, Laima Zurgina, and Gints Berzins.

    The state funding of Latvian film industry for 2009 has been reduced for more than 44% in comparison with 2008. As a result, not a single new feature went into production this year with the financial support of the state. The situation in documentary and short fiction genres is not as critical because of comparatively lower financial expenditures.

    In 2008 Latvian films participated in 165 international film festivals in 44 countries and collected 16 awards worldwide.