Claire Colart, documentary department head for Belgian broadcaster RTBF, believes the more films that expose children’s suffering in war, the better. That’s why she snapped up Hungarian director Ferenc Moldovanyi’s Children: Kosovo 2000 as a pre-buy, even though RTBF’s commissioning board for coproductions voted against making ‘another’ film on Yugoslavia.
The black-and-white doc is a strong film, says Colart, a ‘manifesto against war, for children and human rights.’ It lets the children speak for themselves on their suffering during and after the war. The story addresses the unspeakable trauma borne by young rape victims and an orphaned teenaged girl left alone with her two brothers. It depicts daily life in a country where everyone is trying to pick up the pieces and make a living again.
The film was shot on DV by Moldovanyi, who directed and produced. In 1999, the New York-based Soros Documentary Fund contributed US$40,000 to the film’s budget, which came in at under $200,000. Other major funding came from Hungarian Television.
Despite the fact that the Soros Fund had received a number of projects dealing with Kosovo, committee members felt Moldovanyi’s was unique. Says Soros director Diane Weyermann, ‘He wanted to depict the absurdity of war by delving into the testimonies and memories of traumatized children, not by journalistic means, but with creative cinematic images, sound and music. The result is an incredibly powerful and heartfelt film that exposes the tragedy of war through the eyes, dreams and souls of these children.’
This is the third film by the director that RTBF has acquired in the last few years, the previous two being If You Eat a Beaver and The Way (Az Ut). Colart says she likes Moldovanyi’s sensitivity and perspective.
At 90 minutes, Children: Kosovo 2000 is almost twice the length of a regular primetime slot, but Colart wants to keep it as is. She thinks a wonderful film deserves to be an exception to the 52-minute rule. ‘People will get so involved in [the film] they won’t have the courage to return a week later for the conclusion. So, it can’t be broken up.’ Colart is confident an agreement can be reached with the head of programming on an appropriate time slot. ‘It is not a question of if it will be shown, but when,’ she says.
Children: Kosovo 2000 premiered in February at the 31st International Film Festival of New Cinema in Berlin and will show at the prestigious Vision du real festival in Nyon, Switzerland, at the end of April.
At RTBF’s production center in Brussels, 20 to 25 copros are reviewed every two months. Applicants bring their pitches, treatments and budgetary requirements to the table for review by the board. A majority vote is needed for a coproduction to be initiated. There are currently 40 docs in coproduction and 20 in pre-buy at RTBF. It is not uncommon for some filmmakers to come to RTBF for pre-sales only. If producers can show they are backed by at least three European broadcasters, it is much easier to approach the E.U. for funding.
RTBF broadcasts to Belgium’s French-speaking viewers in Brussels and Wallonia. The channel’s mandate as a public television broadcaster is to acquire, coproduce and commission high quality programming in the education, culture, information and entertainment sectors, and to show ‘what is happening in the world and help people to understand events,’ says Collart. But, she qualifies, ‘we can never explain war.’