UNICA logo

Letter from the President

December 2014

Portrait of Georges Fondeur.

Dear film enthusiasts,

The 76th World Festival of UNICA in Piestany, Slovakia was a resounding success. 120 films have provided the show and 230 participants contributed to create a warm and friendly atmosphere. The town of Piestany in turn was a real discovery with its spa facilities, wide open spaces, its river, its pedestrian area with inviting terraces and its spacious hotels.

The whole programme went according to plan. The only drawback was the absence of some countries without notice. Apart from some small organizational failures the Piestany Congress took place to general satisfaction. Zuzana Skoludova and her small team on the spot, with the effective support of Wolfgang Freier, had much to do, to meet at least somewhat the high expectations raised during the jubilee edition of 2013 in Fieberbrunn. The accompanying programme with trips to Bratislava and in and around Piestany, as well as the cultural program of the highest level at the closing night were much appreciated. A big thank you to the organizing committee.

With a few false notes, the general meeting of the delegates took place harmoniously. All reports were approved without discussion. Note was taken of Armenia's boycott. The request of the Armenian Federation to dismiss the committee in place, with new elections, was rejected by the voices of the delegates from all 25 countries present. It only remains to report the struggle, to decide which of two countries will supply the organization of UNICA 2016, which caused a certain disorder.

Part of the promotion for Suceava,It had long been known that the city of Suceava was a candidate for 2013 and a formal and unanimous promise had been granted to Romania to this effect. Against all expectations we recorded a few weeks before the conference another application from the city of Blansko in the Czech Republic which emphatically implored to be awarded the organization of UNICA in 2016. After a longish break in the meeting, which saw some fierce talking at times between the candidates, the honorary president Max Hänsli having unsuccessfully tried to mediate, it was decided to apply our rules to the letter and to give preference to Romania.

For 2017 the German bid was unanimously accepted. The conference will probably be held in the city of Dortmund.

Regarding the paper from Art Hovanessian, which proposes structural and organizational reforms, the Assembly requested the Committee to try to find answers to some proposals for improvement. A paper and synthesis likely to find a consensus should be developed in order to prepare UNICA to face the future with confidence. Unfortunately the attempt to achieve a broader opinion on this by asking the individual associations, did not have the hoped-for result.  This has resulted in our project manager, Kees Tervoort, deciding to resign his office. Indeed only France and Italy, although to a lesser extent, were of the opinion that UNICA should be rebuilt on a fundamentally different basis, while responses from other countries were in parts diametrically opposed.

This and many more issues dominated the committee meeting which was held from 5 to 9 November 2014 in Esslingen at the invitation of Bernhard Lindner, Vice President of the German federation (BDFA) and his wife Brigitte. Our hosts had reserved for this purpose the Hotel Traube where we found excellent working conditions. Here briefly described are the main points in our meeting:

The debriefing on UNICA 2014 allowed recognition of two vital points. First there was usually a lack of communication in the screening room. A moderator on the lines of Fieberbrunn, would have been helpful. Then there was a significant lack of volunteers at the reception both during the delivering of documents, and also during the festival, where it was difficult to find multilingual information. The same is true for the closing party, including the return of movies to delegates. The technical side, which fortunately worked well, was based mainly on the shoulders of one person. From all this it is necessary to learn the lesson that the organization of a conference should be entrusted preferably to a city that has an on-site club or organization with many volunteer members. The Committee noted with satisfaction that the organization of Piestany remained within its budget.

An equally important focus was on the issue of plagiarism and professionalism of the films entered in the competition. Because of the importance and complexity of this issue and in the absence of some of the committee members, it was decided to postpone that point to our Spring 2015 meeting.

For now, without further ado it was decided to continue to accept all types of films as well as the current arrangements concerning the number of medals.

Photo of Dom  Umenia in Piestany.Satisfying  the wishes of many federations, the committee agreed to lower the upper age limit to 18 instead of 25 for youth films and 25 instead of 30 for the authors of the film school and young professionals categories.

At the 2015 Congress elections will be held for the complete renewal of the Committee for the next three years. Some current members will not stand again. Our General Secretariat will send a letter to federations inviting them to submit their nominations for any position.

Then we unanimously adopted Bernhard Lindner as a member of the committee. His main mission is to take up the thorny problem of the jury, from the candidacy for the jury, to its composition and also its scope for the duration of the festival. This mission will be accomplished by Bernhard collaborating closely with Rolf Leuenberger and Dave Watterson.

The committee made a point of expressing its concern about the holding of UNICA 2015 in St. Petersburg, this took account, among other things, of the current political situation. Other areas of concern are the issuing of visas, the new provisions on credit card payment methods, not forgetting possible restrictions on the freedom of expression of authors, by the intention of new Russian legislation for the protection of minors against eroticism and violence in movies. We are still waiting for a clear and unequivocal response on these matters and others before the end of the year. It would be a pity if the mishap of Korea in 2013 was to be repeated after just two years.

The committee will make sure that federations are kept up to date about news on these matters.

The committee made a point of thanking our hosts, Brigitte and Bernhard Lindner, for their kindness and assistance during our stay.

The next committee meeting will be held in May 2015 in Suceava in Romania, this due to the fact that the UNICA festival will take place specifically in that city in 2016.

Luxembourg, December 2014.
Georges Fondeur

Image credits: Photo of Dom Umenia by Oskar Siebert. Photo of the young publicists for Suceava by Jan Watterson