The UK Jewish Film Festival due to take place at the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley is under threat due to the cost of fees to Barnet Council. Films without a British Board of Film Certification certificate pay a fee to be shown, but in previous years this was waived through recommendations from other councils or festival organisers. This arrangement changed in 2013, and Barnet Council is charging £800 for 10 films to be shown.
In an email to the East Finchley councillors the Phoenix cinema says: “…the UKJF have been told they need to decide by Wednesday 14 October what to do or they will have to pull all films. This seems to be a very unreasonable standpoint and will affect the future likelihood of the UKJF wishing to screen premieres or festivals in Barnet.”
Labour East Finchley councillor, Arjun Mittra, has called on Barnet Council to waive the fees in order to let the film festival go ahead.
Cllr Mittra said: "Having the UKJFF at the Phoenix is an important cultural and community event, and we must ensure these expensive barriers are taken away.
“Barnet Council must move on from the times when senior figures in the administration said 'we don't do culture in Barnet'.
“If they are serious about Barnet being a great place to live they must include a cultural offer, and given that Barnet has the largest Jewish community in Britain, it is all the more important that it hosts the film festival."
1. A copy of the email from the Phoenix Cinema:
From: Kate McCarthy
Sent: Friday, October 09, 2015 05:07 PM
To: Mittra, Cllr Arjun; Moore, Cllr Alison; Or-Bach, Cllr Alon
Subject: Fwd: Film Certification
Dear East Finchley Councillors,
I'm writing to you as the new head of the Phoenix Cinema. I have worked at the Phoenix for 5 years and have lived in Barnet for most of my life, so I have a strong connection with the local area. You may be aware of the issue of film licensing that the Phoenix has faced in the past with regard to the UK Jewish Film Festival and other films which do not have a BBFC certificate.
The Phoenix has a long history of showing previews, premieres, student films, low-budget or short films by emerging filmmakers as well as hosting film festivals which encompass much of the above. In the past, Barnet Council was happy to accept a recommendation from the festival organisers or filmmakers in collaboration with us - or a previous certification from another Council. In recent years, this arrangement has changed and there has been a requirement to pay a fee to have the films shown. In particular the UK Jewish Film Festival has been affected by this and in 2013 all films could only be shown to over 18s (including one children's film which as you can imagine did not sell many tickets). Last year only two films were shown and so the UKJF paid £80 per film to have the films licensed, but this year they are showing 10 films. They asked the licensing department if they could revert to the recommendation arrangement, which was refused, so they decided to screen all films to over 18s only again. They have now been told they have to pay for this waiver as well, at the same cost of £800, even though my understanding is that the only reason for the charge is because of the restriction of admission to under 18s - so this doesn't seem to make sense and contradicts what has been said previously.
This decision has come as a shock and the UKJF have been told they need to decide by Wednesday 14 October what to do or they will have to pull all films. This seems to be a very unreasonable standpoint and will affect the future likelihood of the UKJF wishing to screen premieres or festivals in Barnet. Needless to say, it will also dissuade student or young filmmakers from arranging screenings in Barnet and will mean that Barnet will be unlikely to host any kind of festivals in the future, when other Councils are so much more amenable.
I do not understand why Barnet Council would wish to stifle their cultural status as a Borough by discouraging this kind of activity, which brings prestige, custom, money and goodwill to the local area. I would be grateful for anything you can do to intercede in this matter.
I understand the UKJF is planning to contact the Jewish Chronicle and local press.
Head of Business Operations
52 High Road
London N2 9PJ
For more information contact:
Cllr Arjun Mittra: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568