France’s Beleaguered Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Fest Could Get “Exceptional” Government Support Following Sudden Regional Funding Cut

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French Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak has said her ministry is looking at ways to resolve a funding crisis for France’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival after its regional support was cut out of the blue earlier this month.

“We will have to do something because it’s impossible to fragilize this festival. We’re in discussion with the mayor of Clermont-Ferrand and the other partners and we’ll decide what we do,” she told an international press briefing in Cannes on Saturday.

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The event, the world’s biggest festival devoted to short films, unexpectedly had its funding slashed on May 12, after the regional council for the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, in which Clermont-Ferrand is situated, voted to cut its funding by half to $121,000 (€111,000 euros).

Over the years, the festival has shown the early works of a raft of now-established, award-winning filmmakers including Cannes regulars Jane Campion, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Mike Leigh, Abderrahmane Sissako, Olivier Assayas, Jessica Hausner, Vladimir Perisic, Keren Yadaya, Mati Diop, Léa Mysius and Ladj Ly

There have been suggestions that the cut was politically motivated with communist regional counsellor Boris Bouchet accusing the council’s president, the liberal-conservative politician Laurent Wauquiez, of using a “political guillotine” to hit events not aligned with his politics.

Wauquiez, a potential future presidential candidate, is known for his anti-welfare and anti-immigration policies and desire to cut back public spending in France.

Abdul Malak said the regional council’s sudden cut set a problematic precedent for France’s cultural funding model, mixing national and regional funds.

“We have contracts for three years with our partners, the government, the local authorities, and the festival or the institution,” she said “If one partner decides on their own to stop the support, or to cut it by half without informing the others, it’s not going to work.”

She added that her ministry would likely have to intervene in the case of Clermont-Ferrand, given its importance for the short film format and emerging filmmakers at home and worldwide.

“In this specific case, it’s impossible just to sit and wait and see what will happen. We need to do something. So we will find a way to support them, even if it’s exceptional support,” she said.

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