Film institute ‘broke a leg’ critics argue

Cinema association contend that moving funds away from commercially viable films will damage Denmark’s film industry in the long run.

The article is written with Syrian refugees, among others, in mind (photo: iStock)
December 18th, 2012 4:05 pm| by admin

The national film academy, Det Danske Filminstitut (DFI), is drawing criticism for redirecting the distribution of five million kroner from commercially viable film projects to low-budget niche productions in next year’s budget.

The film industry lashed out at DFI managing director Henrik Bo Nielsen after the announcement was made during last week’s budget presentation, contending that the decision to focus on the niche markets will ultimately damage the nation’s film industry.

“One of the consequences of what DFI is doing is that fewer cinema tickets will be sold. You risk replacing a film like ‘Den skaldede frisør’ [‘Love Is All You Need’] with ‘Viceværten’ [‘A Caretaker’s Tale’],” Kim Pedersen, the head of cinema association, Danske Biografer, told DR News.

Zentropa’s ‘Viceværten’, which had a budget of nearly seven million kroner and received, received poor reviews and sold only 556 tickets during its opening weekend, the worst ever for a film receiving support from the DFI’s niche production fund.

On the other hand, ‘Den skaldede frisør’, which opened in September and had a budget of over 40 million kroner, grossed nearly seven million kroner during its opening weekend and over 40 million kroner total through November 18.

But Nielsen said that he didn’t expect the new budget to impede mainstream film production because they are better at attracting funding. 

“Comparing ‘Den skaldede frisør’ and ’Viceværten’ is an extremely simplistic way of looking at it. Our job is to restore some of the balance that has disappeared in recent years as other financial partners have flocked to the commercial films,” Nielsen told DR News. “Danish film development will become static if we don’t give the artistic films a chance, and it’s not like we’ve revoked support for mainstream film.”

The DFI supports mainstream film by giving money to films that it deems commercially viable, while a separate scheme supports artistic films without considering their audience appeal. Lastly, the DFI also supports minor and co-produced films.

Shaky Gonzalez, a Chilean-born director with films such as ‘Nattens Engel’ (The Angel of Darkness), ‘Speak of the Devil’ and ‘Pistoleros’, graduated from he national film school Dansk Filmskole in 1997, and was delighted that more funds were being made available to artistic films.

“I think it’s great because for the past five to ten years the industry in Denmark has focused heavily on mainstream films while new directors just don’t get a chance,” Gonzalez told The Copenhagen Post. “No one knows any of the faces of the Filmskole graduating classes of the past few years, because the DFI gives so much support to the directors of big film projects. Of course the financial crisis didn’t help, but it nice to see that things are starting to turn around.”

Mainstream films and artistic films both received nearly 50 million kroner in 2011, according to DFI figures.

One of those calling for the budget to be altered was Klaus Hansen, head of Producentforeningen, the national film producers’ association. But according to Nielsen, Producentforeningen was part of the initial budget discussion and the decision stands.

‘The Hunt’ (‘Jagten’) starring Mads Mikkelsen, received seven million kroner in 2011, making it the largest recipient of artistic film support last year.

The largest subsidy for mainstream films went to Second World War drama ‘This Life’ (‘Hvidsten Gruppen’), which received over six million kroner. 

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