Bals Fund on minds at Rotterdam

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ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands -- The International Film Festival of Rotterdam opens Wednesday evening amid industry fears of a major reduction in the government's contribution to the event's associated production fund.

The 36th edition of the Dutch festival is kicking off with the world premiere of "La Antena" (The Aerial), from Argentine director Esteban Sapir, one of the contenders for the official competition's Tiger Award.

According to festival director Sandra den Hamer, the choice of "La Antena," partly financed by the Hubert Bals Fund, was intended as a signal to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the fund's importance.

The Dutch government is planning to halve its backing of the fund, which currently has an annual budget of €1.2 million ($1.6 million). Close to 600 titles have been backed by the fund, which has supported filmmakers from developing countries for more than 20 years.

The festival is still awaiting the outcome of a recent hearing, but if the Foreign Office sticks to its plans, the subsidy will be cut at the beginning of 2009.

During the next 12 days, the Rotterdam festival will present 250 films, including 44 world premieres.
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