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Letter from the President

July 2014

Portrait of Georges Fondeur.

Dear Film Friends,

A large delegation of the committee went to St Petersburg from 4th to 8th June 2014 to discuss on-the-spot with the 2015 organising committee the infrastructure and equipment provided and the arrangements for the 77th UNICA Congress, which will be from 5th – 12th September 2015. For a variety of reasons, at the last minute Jeanne Glass, Rolf Mandolesi and our interpreter Jean Claude Lejosne could not join us. So there six of us: Jan Essing, Thomas Kräuchi, Alois Urbanek, Wolfgang Freier, Serge Michel and the undersigned.

We were very warmly welcomed by our Russian hosts: Nina Zaytseva, President of the organising committee, Igor Subbotin, President of the Russian Federation, Boris Sergejev, President of the local club, Nadezhda Viktornova Selivanova, Julia Obraztcova, Vyacheslav Zaytsev and others. They had prepared a varied and intensive program for us over the four days. Here, briefly, are the essential elements of it:

The  committee and the Rusian organisers.On Thursday, June 5th we visited the cinema centre "Rodina" (which translates as "Homeland") which will house most of the festival in 2015. The hall offers all the facilities and the necessary technical equipment.

Then we had a conversation with Mr. Boris Illarionov, Vice-President of the Culture Committee of the city of Saint Petersburg and two of his employees. It was a very friendly discussion, even if no final commitment on financial assistance could be obtained.

Friday was devoted entirely to talks with the organising committee about practical issues for the 2015 festival. The committee discussed an equally busy agenda for its own meeting although we did not have a quorum, so the delegation was unable to take a decision on certain points. These matters will therefore be raised again at a meeting in Piestany.

In the absence of Zuzana Skoludova, Wolfgang Freier gave a presentation on the state of preparations for the 2014 event in Slovakia. Success here is already assured with more than 200 visitors signed-up so far. The jury is complete. To replace the Ukrainian juror who withdrew, Slovakia will be allowed to propose a second juror. Basically the organisation is done.

The Committee is pleased to hear that for the first time since 2011 there will be a new "UNICA Youth" programme. Iran, Hungary and Norway will be back in the UNICA family, which is more very good news, especially as Australia and Morocco are about to join our organisation.

Armenia meanwhile decided to boycott the Congress in 2014 according to correspondence between the president and board member Art Hovanessian. This is because of undemocratic procedures by the executive of UNICA.

For the congress in 2015 the framework of the schedule is already well developed. The actual programme will be presented in Piešťany. There are a few problems still to be resolved including the accommodation of participants since there are only a few, small hotels within walking distance of the Rodina centre. Another issue that concerns us is the need for a visa to enter the Russian Federation. We must find a solution for this, otherwise some potential delegates may be deterred by the cumbersome formalities and rather high cost.

In the absence of Kees Tervoort we were unable to consider the reactions of national federations as given on the questionnaire about reform. A quick look at the responses received, just seven of them, showed at first sight that only a few countries want a sweeping reform of the current structures and organisation of UNICA. Some suggestions and proposals are considered quite positive. We will have the opportunity to take a closer look at this matter at the General Assembly of Delegates in Piešťany.

The committee felt obliged to respond to the case of copying in the movie Meru lebt by providing UNICA with new stricter rules. From 2014 the author of a film in the contest will sign the registration form to certify that he has all the rights to the film. This signature will be placed next to that of the president of the federation responsible for the entire programme of films entered.

The Rodina cinema.

The Rodina cinema.

The cascade at the Peterhof.

We are considering in this context, a modification of our competition rules to prevent future cases such as that mentioned above. So the president has been asked to submit proposals to the Committee on sanctions against the authors in the case of clearly confirmed fraud and action which might possibly be taken against his national federation. In Piešťany, the committee will have to consider further steps and report to the Assembly of Delegate.

Thanks to the kindness of our Russian hosts we were able, during our stay in St Petersburg, to enjoy many first class cultural, tourist and gastronomic activities. To mention a few of them: visiting the Russian Museum, Peterhof and the Hermitage Museum; attending a performance of classical ballet at Mikhailovsky theatre; dinner at the renowned Gogol restaurant; not forgetting an evening boat trip on the Neva.

UNICA 2015 will certainly be very different from the five previous ones, because it will be held in a city of over six million people, where distances are great and it will also be more expensive because of the city’s year-round appeal to millions of tourists. We were convinced that in any event St Petersburg is a beautiful city that has much to offer visitors and is certainly worth the trip despite the higher prices than elsewhere.

For the moment, we look forward to seeing you again soon at UNICA 2014 in Piešťany.

Luxemburg, July 2014
Georges Fondeur

The Rodina Cinema.

Image credits: Photo of Peterhof by Cottbus (Wikimedia Commons) All other photos courtesy of Jan & Ineke Essing.