Endangered FCAT festival turns financial issues into opportunity

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From 13 to 20 October 2012, the "Festival de Cine Africano de Córdoba" (formerly Tarifa, FCAT) was held in the South of Spain. For its 9th edition, the FCAT changed the date and location despite obvious missing subsidies.

As Spain is in crisis and while street signs "For Sale" or "For Rent" are blooming, cinema is also affected. Raising taxes on cinema, increased from 8% to 21% (September 2012), according to El Economista.es could lead to a decrease of 10 to 12 million viewers and the closure of many theaters. The impact of this increase on the price paid by the spectators could even be doomed to the sector 's death according to Enrique Gonzalez Mach, president of the Academy of Cine Spanish.

In this context, a festival promoting African cinema becomes an act of bravery and strength. While the budget of the Ministry of Culture of Spain has decreased by 21% compared to 2011 and that the cooperation has been cut by 72%, African Festival de cine de Córdoba has suffered budget cuts and the withdrawal of some of its traditional partners. Only the city of Córdoba confirmed its support just one month before the event. 

Founded in 2004 in the town of Tarifa (Cádiz, southern Spain), the FCAT and the Al Tarab association organize every year a week promoting African cinema. It shoowcases over 120 films from Africa and the Middle East [hence the creation this year of a non-competitive section in partnership with the International Film Festival of Dubai UAE].

A co-production forum - initiated in 2008 and hosting 7 projects feature films and documentary projects 4 this year - provides funding for projects like "Djin" from director Hawa Essuman (Ghana / Kenya) which won € 25,000 through the Director's Eye fund supported by the Italian foundation lettera27.

Outside of the festival, more than 600 African films subtitled in Spanish are circulating in Spain but also in Africa and Latin America. With his partner "Casa Africa" through the program Cinenómada the FCAT organizes more than 70 cycles per year for "awareness of most fragile cinema on the planet, those of Africa, with the conviction that filmmakers from the continent can offer better than anyone else a vision of the problems and prospects of these societies, "confirmed the festival director, Mane Cisneros in her press release.

Over the past 8 editions, Cordoba African Film Festival has received support mainly from Spanish public institutions. Among them the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Casa Africa, the regional Government of Andalusia and the City Council of Cordoba. But barely a month away from the festival’s inauguration, several of the festival’s traditional donors had not confirmed their support. Only the City Council of Cordoba and the Andalusian regional government confirmed a 160.000€ allocation. On another hand, the festival’s oldest and strongest donor, Casa Africa, had overnight withdrawn all support. This insecurity stems from the recent, sizable cutbacks in the Spanish government’s budget for culture (21% compared to last year) and development cooperation (72%).

In September 2012, € 30,000 was missing to complete the FCAT loop. The festival launched a fundraising campaign on the internet (IndieGoGo on the international side, "La Tahona Cultural" on the Spanish side) which unfortunately did not succeed. The goal of the Indiegogo campaign was to raise 12 000 $ before the 30th of September. "Other expected financial inflows will come from box office and merchandising sales”, says Mane Cisneros.

"We got 50% of the amount expected from "La Cultural Tahona" but less than 10% from IndieGoGo, confirmed one of the leaders of the festival, Carlos Dominguez. There should probably be a request for funding for a specific project and not for the whole festival but funding via the Internet will become increasingly difficult ... '

Reacting to the overall decline in funding in Europe favorable to the culture and festivals of African cinema in particular, the FCAT, Africa in the Picture (Netherlands), Africa in Motion (UK) and Afrika Filmfestival (Belgium) have teamed up to defend their interests. 

"At the EU funding level, we are too African or too European", says Carlos Dominguez. "For the MEDIA Programme, we are not European enough. For Europe Aid or ACP we are not African enough as they demand quite complex partnerships in Africa and that most of the actions happen there.

So we decided to come together with other festival organizers to create a synergy between African film festivals in Europe, canvass European programs to redefine eligibility criteria [such as ACP Culture, MEDIA, EuropeAid, jointly invite directors and share our costs. 

Some of the International Film festivals in Europe specialised in African cinemas have been exchanging views and trying to put together projects for the past couple of years, more or less. Our relationships are fluid and we try to help each other on an informal basis, for instance sharing contacts for films and filmmakers or exchanging film/subtittled versions, etc. Basically, we have all suffered drastic cuts in our funding. The funding structure of each festival varies, but we may say that we depend on either international development or cultural (or both) funds from each of our countries. In the current financial crisis, both areas have been targeted by governments to achieve budget savings."

Meeting for the first time in Córdoba at the 2012 FCAT, the four festivals met up two days in Amsterdam during the "Africa in the Picture" festival and will meet again in London in January 2013 to finalize their joint action.

"Also coincidentally a few of the festivals have changed dates, resulting in quite a few of them taking place in October-November - e.g. Cordoba, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Apt, and also tri-continental ones such as Nantes or Amiens.

So coming together is a quite urgent need in order to: 1. Establish a dialogue with European institutions 2. Achieve greater synergies and cost efficiencies for us and also for African filmmakers

To this aim, some of our festivals have come together in Cordoba and then in Amsterdam. We have agreed to form a common platform with a legal entity and invite to participate in it the festivals that could not make it to these meetings.

Our calendar: November 2012
Agree on a Memorandum of Understanding research of the legal form of the alliance Agree on a Manifesto/declaration of intentions

December
Communicate with other potential partner festivals

January
2 day working Meeting in London

February Presentation of the alliance at Fespaco (Burkina Faso). temptatively scheduled for Feb 26th.

Festivals included in the initiative:

FCAT Córdoba
Africa in The Picture, Amsterdam
Africa in Motion, Edinburgh
FilmAfrika Festival, Leuven, Belgium
FilmInitiative, Kohln, Germany

We hope to get on board in 2012: Verona (IT), Apt (FR)

Then we'll try to reach out also to tri-continental festivals (Nantes, Milano, Amiens) and festivals in Africa, although we do not know yet if they will be full members, etc."  concluded Carlos Dominguez. 

Pending their formal presentation at the next FESPACO (Burkina Faso), a manifesto will be released on 1st. November 2012.

Sections translated from French by Balancing Act. Interview with Carlos Dominguez from Fcat by Balancing Act.