His Lordship, The Honourable Mr Eddy Balancy, Chief Justice
H.E. Mr Emmanuel Cohet, Ambassador of France
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives from our non-resident Member states: Belgium, Spain and Netherlands
Honorary Consuls from the EU Member States
Dear Partners of the Festival
Members of the press
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening and welcome to the opening ceremony of the European Film Festival!
I am delighted to be with you tonight to kick-start six days dedicated to European culture in Mauritius. Six days of cinema, music, special events for young people and professional meetings. A high-quality and diverse programme with a central theme: youth.
But why a European Film Festival?
Ahead of the Festival, many journalists have asked me: 'Can we talk about a European cinema?" And my answer was 'Yes, there is a European cinema!' It is a cinema defined not only by its artistic quality, but also by its diversity reflecting the cultural richness of the European continent: cinema from the North of Europe is quite different from cinema from the South.
And you will have the opportunity to discover that diversity this week.
European cinema reflects our identities, our languages, our differences. But, European cinema also reflects one of our key strengths: unity.
With this festival, we want to showcase that Europe is a continent which has a lot to share with the world: diversity of cultural expressions, high quality artistic creation and a vibrant and innovative creative industry with numerous opportunities for collaboration.
The EU has adopted a strategy to place culture at the heart of its external relations. Because we believe that culture can not only be a factor of peaceful inter-community relations but also an engine for sustainable social and economic development.
Mauritius and the European Union have a longstanding friendship based on strong cultural links and exchanges between our people. As an EU Ambassador, I have constantly strived to bring Mauritius closer to Europe. What a better way to do that than through cinema which is a way to communicate through images, overcoming language barriers, and carrying universal messages.
Three ideas have guided us in preparation of this Festival.
The first idea was to bring European cinema to Mauritius and showcase the European cultural diversity.
The Festival brings feature movies and short films, carefully selected to echo the concerns of local audiences. Films are recent and have received international awards; most of them have never been screened in Mauritius.
They come from 14 EU Member States hence reflecting a different vision of cinema in different parts of Europe, from Sweden to Italy, and from Portugal to Poland.
Reflecting the use of new technologies in cinema, the Festival features screenings of six films using virtual reality equipment.
There is also a place for music with a Polish pianist who will give a concert with Chopin's music at the Caudan Arts Centre.
The second idea behind the organisation of the Festival was to generate interest of young people in cinema and to foster youth creativity.
Cinema is about opening minds. Hence, reaching out to young people is a priority for us. How? First, by selecting films which talk about their problems. I am sure that the young audience will appreciate films like Diamantino, A Ciambra, Sing Street but also 'Vincent ou la fin du monde' – the film which we will see tonight and which will be screened a second time on Saturday.
The Festival also aspires to provide young people with an opportunity to develop their interest in cinema and inspire them. We have thus dedicated screenings for children in the morning. We are also organising workshops on education in the visual image in collaboration with ANFEN, a Non-Government Organisation which promotes informal education for young people who have left school. David Constantin, Mauritian film-maker and President of Assocation Porteurs d'Images will facilitate the workshops to enable young people to understand the making of films and have a critical look at the cinema.
The third idea which guided us was to share European experience and contribute to the development of the film industry in Mauritius.
It is now globally acknowledged fact that culture and creative industries are important contributors to economic growth. In EU alone, the cultural and creative industries represent 5.3% of the EU’s total GDP and constitute the third largest employer sector with 12 million full-time jobs.
The Government of Mauritius has a vision to develop the film industry and reflects on a number of initiatives in this field. We hope that through our Festival we can also contribute to this reflection by creating bridges and opportunities of exchange with European professionals. With the future Mauritian film-makers in mind, we included in the programme of the Festival masterclasses and meetings with European professionals, including Christophe Van Rompaey, a Belgian film director, who is here with us tonight.
Mr Van Rompaey is the creator of "Vincent ou la fin du monde", the film that we will see in a few minutes. His first feature film 'Moscow, Belgium' received three awards at the Festival de Cannes in 2008. We will also welcome three other guests from the Netherlands, France and Poland. Students and Mauritian professionals will be able to gain new skills and exchange with them.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
We also want to provide the largest number of people with the opportunity to discover for free the diversity of the European cinema. This is also why we have scheduled indoor screenings (here in Bagatelle and in Caudan) as well as outdoors screenings. One of the screenings will take place in the West, on the public beach in Tamarin and another will be held at the football ground on Mont Choisy public beach.
Culture can be the place where people meet and make the most out of their diversity. Culture allows us to build bridges between people and reinforce mutual understanding. This is also what the Festival is about! And this is why we invite the public to five thematic evenings after the film screenings to discover music from the countries that are in the programme. This will be the opportunity to meet and to exchange on cinema in a friendly atmosphere.
Before I conclude, I wish to thank all our partners who have contributed to the organisation of the Festival
First of all, I would like to thank our Member States for helping us in sourcing the films, namely Belgium, Germany, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Poland and the UK, as well as their cultural institutes: Institut Français de Maurice and the British Council.
Tonight my special thanks go to the BMBC - Belgian-Mauritian Business Club, and six of its members namely: BIA, Jan de Nul, Impact Production Group, Afix Mauritius, Tales from the Island and Natam who are co-hosting, with us, this opening ceremony dedicated to Belgian cinema.
I also wish to thank MC Vision and Veranda Tamarin, as well as our other partners: Cinéma Star, Bagatelle, ANFEN, Cube Design and our media partners: Scope and Radio One. Your support is really appreciated!
I also wish to thank Association Porteurs d'Images whose extensive experience of organising film festivals in Mauritius led us in selecting them as our implementing partner.
I hope that with the help of all our partners and engaged individuals the European Film Festival will become an annual rendez-vous in the Mauritian cultural landscape.
Thank you for your attention. Il ne me reste plus qu'à vous souhaiter: Bon film et bon festival!