Algerian filmmakers have stepped up a campaign calling for their government to unlock promised state funds for cinema, warning that Algeria’s film industry is on its last legs following a near-year-long funding freeze.
Following on from a first open letter in June, the Collective of Algerian Cineastes has published a new letter addressed to Minister of Culture Soraya Mouloudji, re-demanding clarification on the government’s funding plans for cinema.
Algeria’s long-running Fdatic film fund (Fonds national pour le développement des arts, et de la technique et de l’industrie du cinema) was cancelled in December 2021 by Mouloudji’s predecessor Wafa Chaâlal.
The minister promised a replacement fund would soon be announced but nine months later no new scheme has been unveiled and successor Mouloudji has been equally unforthcoming.
A number of completed features approved for funding under Fdatic have yet to receive their monies, while a handful of projects in development that were assessed by a final session of the fund’s reading committee are now in limbo.
State funding is a key component of indie film finance in Algeria, where box office returns and other ancillary revenues are not enough to cover budgets.
Following June’s open letter, Mouloudji promised in August to unblock the situation but the collective said nothing has moved forward.
“Madam Minister, we are, yet again, alerting you on the threat hovering above Algerian cinema: eight months after Fdatic was cancelled, if a new public fund is not rapidly implemented and the announced measures are not backed up by dates and figures, the future of Algerian cinema will be projected on a black screen,” read their letter.
“We, then, requested to meet with you. Your staff assured us that a meeting would be quickly set up. Unfortunately, three months later, despite many reminders on our part, no such meeting was set,” it continued. “We, directors, are those who imagine, create, tell and direct stories. We ask to be included in the collective process of defining the outlook of cinema’s public policy.”
High-profile feature productions waiting for final funding instalments include Venice 2022 Giornate degli Autori title The Last Queen by Adila Bendimerad and Damien Ounouri, and Kamir Aïnouz’s Honey Cigar, which opened the parallel section in 2020.
Projects in development waiting for funding decisions include Yanis Koussim’s Roqia, Yacine Bouaziz’s Poupiya and Osama Rai’s Dactylo
Bendimerad, Ounouri and Aïnouz were among the signatories of the letter alongside Sofia Djama, director of Venice 2017 Horizons breakout The Blessed; director and actor Lyès Salem, seen recently in Venice Horizons 2022 title For My Country, and Amin Sidi-Boumédiène, whose Abou Leila debuted to acclaim in Cannes Critics’ Week in 2019.
The collective said they wanted precise answers on when the processing of the features and projects left hanging would be completed, as well as an update on the replacement fund, its launch date and budget.
“Without concrete answers to these questions, our cinema cannot project itself.” read the letter. “Algerian cinema represents its country and its people, on a national and international level.”
“Our cinema fights to live on and thrive, in a free, unique and powerful way – just like it has in the past decades, to tell our stories, in our own way, with our characters, for our public!”
As well as The Last Queen, Algeria was also represented in Venice this year by Djama who was a member of the Horizon’s jury and Karim Bensalah, whose upcoming film Black Light was awarded five prizes in the Final Cut post-production workshop.
The other signatories of the open letter included Mohamed Benabdellah, Karim Bengana, Bensalah, Yacine Bouaziz, Yasmine Chouikh, Fayçal Hammoum, Dorothée Myriam Kellou, Malek Kellou, Yanis Koussim, Nadir Moknèche, Osama Rai, Lina Soualem and Mouzahem Yahia.