Film at center of EU's Dialogue


BRUSSELS -- Cinema festivals and filmmaking competitions will be at the heart of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, taking place throughout 2008, which aims to boost European understanding across languages, religions, and ethnic backgrounds.

The yearlong event will have a budget of 10 million euros ($14.5 million), in additiont o funds from EU capitals, to foster a variety of projects across Europe. These include seven flagship trans-European projects and 27 national projects involving culture, education, youth and citizenship.

The European Year will link with film festivals across the EU, aiming to offer special competitions for movies that promote the event's goals of "understanding, tolerance, solidarity and a sense of common destiny among people in Europe."

Another EU-wide project, "Stranger," involves thousands of youngsters from disadvantaged or minority groups producing one-minute-long films. It is linked to the project, which showcases the 60-second movies, and will this year emphasize diversity and cultural understanding.

The intercultural blueprint also has named Cannes winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, "Persepolis's" Iranian-born writer Marjane Satrapi, Romanian director Radu Mihaileanu and French singer Charles Aznavour as ambassadors

The program comes as many policymakers in Europe have raised fears that globalization will create a cultural "soup" that will grind down local ideas and traditions.

Hollywood often is cited as the most powerful influence drawing people away from variety. "Cultural diversity is Europe's wealth, rather than its problem," EU culture commissioner Jan Figel said.