Ukraine's Application to EU Cinema Fund Will Progress Despite Political Crisis

The head of Eurimages says he has avoided visiting the country because of "security reasons," but will continue talks with Ukrainian officials at a safe location elsewhere.

KIEV, Ukraine – Anti-government protests in Ukraine may hamper but won't stop the country joining the European Union's cinema support fund, Eurimages, its head says.

At least three demonstrators have been shot dead in clashes with police in Kiev, where citizens angry at a decision to turn away from closer political and economic ties with Europe in favor of Russia have been occupying several government buildings and a large barricaded area of the city center around Maidan Square (Independence Square) since November.

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Ukraine's application to join Eurimages -- launched just a few weeks before the country's political crisis erupted -- is continuing, although program chiefs are avoiding the country because of security concerns.

Roberto Olla, executive director of Eurimages, told The Hollywood Reporter:  "The process has not been suspended. Clearly, for security reasons, we are asked to avoid traveling to Ukraine."

The travel ban means that meetings that may have been scheduled in Kiev are likely to take place elsewhere, for example in Germany at next month's Berlin Film Festival, which opens Feb. 6.

Igor Savychenko, head of the Motion Picture Association of Ukraine, said filmmakers and culture chiefs were continuing work on drawing up a detailed statistical report on the film industry in Ukraine due for presentation to Eurimages officials by Feb. 14.

The report will detail national film law, production and co-production figures, distribution data, box office and other economic figures.

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"The report is a key part of the application process and is used to calculate the contribution a country is expected to make to the fund," Savychenko said. His association estimates Ukraine's annual contribution will be around $950,000.

Membership to Eurimages will give Ukrainian producers, distributors and exhibitors access to funds that support European filmmaking and distribution. Russia joined Eurimages in 2011 and cinemagoers there have, for example, benefited from greater access to European films at some theaters.

"Eurimages provides subsidies for production and distribution and is often the fund of last resort after industry professionals have tapped other sources," Savychenko added.

The political situation in Ukraine remained tense Wednesday as the Verkhovna Rada -- parliament -- began a second day of an emergency session designed to find a compromise to bring the crisis to a peaceful end. Deputies were due to debate an amnesty for jailed activists.

On Tuesday, the country's entire government, headed by prime minister Mykola Azarov resigned and a raft of repressive anti-protest laws were repealed. It was the introduction of those laws on Jan. 16 that sparked violent clashes with the police in Kiev, taking the crisis to a new and deadly level.

Opposition leaders, some of whom have little legitimacy among protestors on the streets, say the concessions are a step in the right direction but more needs to be done to resolve a crisis that threatens to tear the country apart.

President Viktor Yanukovych, who was democratically elected but is seen by many people as the head of a deeply corrupt administration, remains in office although the opposition has been calling for his resignation and new elections.