Development policy in the Netherlands: more of the same

April 2007 -

On 1 March 2007, Marianne Bhalotra passed her position as coordinator of the Hubert Bals Fund to Bianca Taal. She worked for the fund for twelve years and views its future from the perspective of the new co-funding program Medefinancierings-systeem 2009-2012 (MFS). For the first time since its establishment in 1995 the HBF will stop receiving government funding.

"The HBF has always promoted cultural equality with film makers in the South. We search for moving artistic quality. The conditions for funding have therefore always been minimal and uncomplicated. That approach has proven to be successful and fruitful.

Personally, I have always enjoyed the fantastic contacts established throughout the years with directors from all over the world. Many of their projects were made possible by the financial and moral support of the HBF. My favorite example is what appeared to be an impossible film project: West of the Tracks, by Wang Bing about the dismantling of China's steel industry. He had filmed hundreds of hours of material, but his critical project would never be accepted by the Chinese authorities. In the end, with support from the HBF, he made a nine hour documentary that was a smash hit at international festivals.

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Still from: West of the Tracks van Wang Bing

Despite the complimentary criticism that the fund's approach has reaped and copycat international film festivals like Berlin, Göteborg and Los Angeles, we missed the boat in the new Co-funding program. The new policy for development cooperation primarily focuses on the United Nations Millennium Objectives. To my amazement, culture scarcely plays a part. In our application for 2009 – 2012 we did everything we could to fit into that straightjacket, but in the end we were unrecognizable in our answers to the unending list of questions. How in the world can we measure the input and output of an independent Argentinean director who was able to make his first experimental film with assistance from the HBF? We submitted an appeal, but it was also rejected.

I believe that the more-of-the-same development policy in the Netherlands these days is a pity. Stimulating creative expression, forming an identity and especially personal self-esteem: you cannot imagine how important that is for the many, often young, film directors who struggle to work within the political and economically unstable context of the Southern continents."