Foreword by Nikolaos Sifunakis
it is my pleasure to introduce to you the 2007 edition of the "European Cinema Yearbook", now a statistical source familiar to professionals in the cinema industry and European policy makers as well to all those who are keen on boosting the potential of European culture as a source of innovation for the future.
Our commitment, in the Committee on Culture and Education, for a wider circulation of cinema and television productions is born of the need to shape a European audiovisual space that reinforces intercultural dialogue and reflects Europe's cultural identity and heritage, two cornerstones in the process of European citizenship building.
Firstly, I am pleased to inform you that after a legislative process of only 18 months, based on a fruitful inter-institutional cooperation, a political agreement was reached last May between the European Parliament and the Council on the revised Television Without Frontiers Directive, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS). The new Directive will provide a modern pro-competitive framework for European providers of linear and non linear services. It will also create a level playing field for all companies that offer on-demand audiovisual media services to profit from Europe's internal market, irrespective of the technology used to deliver their services whilst at the same time continuing to ensure a high level of consumer (i.e. viewer) protection. With this new Directive, the EU will finally have a comprehensive framework covering all audiovisual media services and modernising the rules on television advertising by giving more flexibility for financing audiovisual content through new forms of commercial communications. The Directive is expected to enter into force by the end of 2007 and Member States will be given 24 months to transpose the new provisions into national law, so that the modernised legal framework for audiovisual business will fully apply in 2009.
We also strongly believe in a large-scale European audiovisual policy fostering a European base of cinematographic knowledge at every level, i.e. training, development, production, and distribution, is essential to help professionals throughout the Union and give Member States the required support to invigorate the sector. The MEDIA Programme, for three generations, has supported Europe's audiovisual industry, helping with the development and distribution of thousands of films as well as training activities, festivals and promotional projects, and in the process allowing national experiences to be shared and linguistic obstacles to be overcome. At the recent Cannes Film Festival, 11 of the nominated films were funded by this programme and two of them were honoured in their respective categories: "The Edge of Heaven" by Fatih Akin which won best screenplay and “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi which won the Jury Prize.
The MEDIA 2007 Programme, with a budget of 755 million EUR for the 2007-2013 period, tries to go further, responding to the challenges brought about by digital technology and the latest enlargement. Directed by Cristian Mungiu "4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days", a film about two students dealing with unwanted pregnancy in Communist Romania received the prestigious Palme d'Or award at Cannes this year becoming the first Romanian film ever to receive such an award. It was one of 862 films produced in the EU in 2006 - a substantial increase from the previous year. Figures from across the Union also show cinema attendances continuing to rise, but the well financed and marketed Hollywood films produced in English continue to dominate. European films gained just 27% of the market share in cinemas last year. Besides problems on the "domestic" European market, films often struggle to make any impact at all on US audiences.
Indeed, the European cinematographic industry has long been criticised for not benefiting from its market potential and not reaching its full potential despite the existence of an important internal market. It's a sad reality that "today" as Wim Wenders, the German film-maker, put it in his speech about the Image of Europe on 11th June 2007, "going to the cinema is synonymous with watching an American film". It is a truth that serves to reveal the fragmentation of the distribution system in Europe and reflects the upsurge in multiplexes and the gradual disappearance of independent exhibitors.
One barrier European cinema faces in reaching a wide audience is the diversity of European languages and the cost of subtitles and dubbing. I deeply believe that diversity is not an obstacle but an opportunity for the EU, and it is the reason why we, the Committee on Education and Culture, decided to initiate a new film award called "Prix LUX" -"light" in Latin. It will be offered during the European Parliament Days for Cultural Diversity next October, and rather than offering a cash prize will give the winner the chance to have their film subtitled in the EU's 23 languages. A shortlist of three European films will be chosen by cinema experts with MEPs voting for the final winner. This new EP film Prize will not only promote European cinema productions but more generally Europe's universal values and cultural diversity.
I would conclude by once again joining Wim Wenders in saying "If Europe is to prove itself in the eyes of the Europeans themselves, it must now define itself through its innermost quality: the wonderful, chaotic, unique diversity of its culture."
I hope this yearbook makes interesting and enjoyable reading.