Czech group lobbies for film support

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COTTBUS, Germany -- A group of film industry professionals, festival organizers and film school heads in the Czech Republic have set up a new Film Council to lobby for a national cinematography law.

The move by representatives from 17 professional associations, five film schools and nine film showcases, including the Karlovy Vary international film festival, follows Czech president Vaclav Klaus' May veto of legislation that would have provided for an annual $13 million national film fund.

Klaus said at the time that he did not believe the film industry should be supported by public funds.

The new body will work closely with the Czech ministry of culture to ready a new film bill that will cover the film industry, film institutions and schools as well as further professional training, Helena Uldrichova, of national body the Czech Film Industry, told state news agency CTK.

"After the amendment to the law on the State Fund for Support and Development of Czech Cinematography ... was turned down this May, a number of meetings with political representatives took place," Uldrichova said. "The Culture Ministry in cooperation with filmmakers started to prepare a new bill on cinematography. All these discussions have revealed the necessity to set up the Film Council representing the entire film community."

The council, officially launched Tuesday in Prague, elected spokesmen from key industry sectors, including Karlovy Vary festival president Jiri Bartoska, Prague Academy of Performing Arts rector Ivo Mathe and documentary filmmaker Helena Trestikova.

The spokesmen will maintain pressure on the Czech government for what they say is much needed reform to support the national film industry in a country known the world over as a budget location for major productions such as "Casino Royale," the new James Bond movie that premiered in London earlier this week.

May's presidential veto of the previously proposed film law -- just before national parliamentary elections that ended in a dead heat, leading to a political logjam -- threw Czech filmmakers into chaos.

A July meeting convened by Bartoska between filmmakers and politicians during the Karolvy Vary film festival laid the foundations for resuming negotiations over a fundamental shake up of Czech film legislation.

Caretaker Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, leader of the right of center Civil Democrats, has pledged to prioritize a new film bill in the government he is still trying to form.

Recent film law reforms in such neighboring countries as Poland, Romania and Hungary, have left many in the Czech film industry angered at the slow pace of reform at home.

Speaking at the Connecting Cottbus film industry event Thursday, Jana Cernik, managing director of the industry-backed Czech Film Center, said: "A new law would enable Czech filmmakers to do more co-productions and expand the variety of genres we can produce -- such as animation or fairytales, which are too expensive to produce at the moment when the annual budget of the state film fund is €2 million ($2.6 million)."
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