Festival poster.


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Zeist will be a UNICA to remember

The BIG event of 2019 will be UNICA in Zeist. (August 24 - 31.)

Sad News

The price of a full Congress Card went up by 25€ at the end of May. The special hotel deals have now closed.

Glad news

For people at Postillion Hotel a shuttle-bus will take you to and from Hotel Figi, where the event takes place.

Our special deal on room prices is over, but you may find places at Hotel Postillion (Bunink) on hotel websites, which offer reductions on the normal price. You may also find accommodation in Zeist or Utrecht but will have to make your own arrangements to get to Hotel Figi for the events.

Sign Up

Go to www.unica2019.nl for the latest news and to order your Congress Card. Do explore that website carefully – more easily done on a desktop or laptop than a phone or tablet. Look at the special excursions on offer: trips by bus, steam train and boat.

Steam train and party boat image.

Plus, there are plans for workshops and more … it will be a UNICA to remember.

For example, there will be an audience award. Obviously, this is for fun, not a serious way of comparing jury choices with those of the public. The Dutch will also be inviting some of the more experienced regular visitors to meet with the participants in the Young UNICA workshop so that ideas and film “pitches” can be discussed.

Getting there

Zeist is near Utrecht and easy to reach by road or rail.
By air: fly to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, go downstairs from the main concourse, called Schiphol Plaza, to the railway station and catch a train to Driebergen-Zeist. From there it is a short bus or taxi trip to the suggested hotels.

You cannot buy tickets on the train. On ticket machines look for the flag to change languages. Machines only accept coins, Maestro or V PAY debit cards; MasterCard, VISA or American Express credit cards. At Schiphol you can buy at a ticket office, but beware long queues. It is easier to go to https://www.ns.nl and order your
tickets in advance there.

Tip: trains leaving Schiphol at about the hour and half-hour do not require you to change at Utrecht.

“We put the emphasis again on each National Organisation”


Another year: another way to register films for UNICA.

Every National Organisation should by now have
received an invitation to send their film programme.
That invitation came with detailed instructions. In short:

  • the representative of each member organisation fills in an online form, giving all the essential information about their film block.
  • She or he also sends to the authors of those films, the individual
    Author Forms, which have to be sent back to us on author@unica-web.com.
  • The national representative then gathers all the films and sends them electronically to the Dutch organisers.

For the last couple of years there were complaints that our submissions system was devaluing the role of each National Organisation. Now we put the emphasis again on each National Organisation. It also simplifies the accurate preparation of the brochure, awards lists and website. We are grateful to Emile de Gruijter and Tini Schuurmans for developing the system; and to
Eugy Van Gool, Romy Van Krieken and Vladimir Murtin for the translations involved.

Missing President

Portrait of Dave Watterson.In March, for the first time in over 60 years, the UNICA committee met in my country, the UK. And I was not there!

A death in the family kept me away. But UNICA is teamwork. Committee member, Mike Whyman, together with representatives from IAC, the British National Organisation, welcomed the team from UNICA. During the weekend, they showed them the facilities, which will be used for UNICA2020. Vice-President, Bernhard Lindner, acted as chairman for the meeting. The energy and enthusiasm of the newly elected committee, which had been so obvious in November, clearly continued. They discussed a wide range of issues.

We never give-up easily on a member, but we may lose some countries this year for a variety of reasons. A working party is looking into the possible recruitment of new countries, as well as ways of encouraging more visitors from our current members to come to the annual Congress and Festival.

The Patronage team is working hard to win back some of the festivals with which we had lost touch and to find new recruits. If you know of an international festival for non-commercial films in your country, do let us know.

In addition to the promo films (short advertisements) for each annual UNICA Festival, we are devising some general promo films for UNICA, which we will expect Patronage festivals to show. We also encourage every National Organisation to show these at their national festivals.

The UNICA Handbook will soon be updated to correct a couple of points and to add lessons learned from Blansko.

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MedalsImage of a UNICA medal.

UNICA uses medals for different purposes:

  • As prizes to authors at the UNICA festival – bronze, silver and gold.
  • As honorary awards given by UNICA or by National Organisations to people or organisations which have worked hard for our cause. National Organisations may ask for one of these each year.
  • As Patronage medals given annually to festivals with UNICA Patronage, for the festival judges to award to the best film or video production promoting solidarity between the nations, or using new forms of expression.


Speaking of Patronage … any film festival which serves non-commercial film makers and is open to submissions from all over the world, can apply for UNICA Patronage status. If we approve them, that guarantees film makers a fair and decent festival. The fee for patronage is 70€ and in return the festivals gets extra promotion from us plus a special medal for its jury to award to a film which promotes solidarity between nations, or uses new forms of expression.

What's in a name?

Our name and the title of our festival is a topic, which is raised frequently, most recently by VÖFA at Blansko. We know who we are and what we do, so we need to consider those names from the viewpoint of outsiders.

OUR NAME IS: “UNICA – Union Internationale du Cinéma” We ignore the “A”. Originally it stood for “Amateur”. The Austrians suggest we use it again.

In many languages the public perception of “amateur” is of  something poorly done. In some countries government
funders and private sponsors refuse to support organisations labelled as “amateur”. The word “Author” was suggested, but that causes confusion with the writers of books. The matter came to a head in 2005 when after a long discussion at the General Assembly in Blankenberge, the present name was agreed. (Note that this was long after the “film school” category had been introduced in 1999 and before the arrival of the “young professionals” category in 2012.)

After careful consideration the committee decided to continue to leave the “A” unexplained. Many trade names are well-known without being explained: IKEA, DHL, 3M, H&M, BMW, HSBC, FIAT, IBM, LG, UNICEF …

OUR ANNUAL EVENT IS: “The UNICA Congress” but what people debate is how we describe our international film competition.

Our Statutes do not mention a “festival”. (Statutes 2.2 (b) and 5.1(b) call it “the international film competition”.) Many local organisers of the Congress have applied different names such as “World Festival”, “World Movie Contest”, “World Championship”. It seems each country has its own preferred title. Some people argue that since our members do not include every country, we should not claim the title “World”.

Does it matter? Remember that ours is not a competition open to individual film makers. Our member national organisations choose the films to be shown. We are not seeking to attract authors, only to give them a sense of achievement if their film is chosen to take part. Within this realm of promotion, we do not have to be too precise.

After long discussion the committee decided to allow each host nation to describe it as they choose. What we insist, is that the name “UNICA” (in capital letters) must be used as part of the festival title.

Coming Soon

New Website
Our new website may come online in the summer. There is a lot of work to do. We need to keep the best of the old as well as adding a touch of the new.

Proposals for the 2019 General Assembly

The committee will propose:

  1. A long-overdue update to Statute 6.4 to show the fees agreed back in 2011. Note that this is not a change of the fees paid for the last 7 years.
  2. Young UNICA Workshop:
    UNICA supports participation in the YUW (Young UNICA Workshop) with a maximum of 1800€ per year, taking into account the regulations in the manual. The proposal is valid for the next 3 years.

UNICA 2020 (8-15th August) in Britain

Pictures from Birmingham.

At the time of writing I have just returned from the British International Amateur Film Festival in Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. In many ways this was a dry-run for UNICA2020. The Crescent Theatre, where our films will be shown is in the heart of an area which has been totally renovated in recent years. There are plenty of hotels – one less than a minute’s walk from the cinema. All the well-known restaurants and pubs are close by.

The home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is just across one of the many canals in the area. The SeaLife exhibit is close by. There are art galleries, health clubs and masses of shops.

More pictures from Birmingham.

Whatever happens about Brexit, you can be sure of a very warm welcome.

Dave Watterson [UNICA President]