This year's first event of the European Film Forum 2019 took place during the Berlinale. With Creative Europe MEDIA and Horizon 2020 supporting a number of subtitling projects, the debate focused on how to use technology to make European films travel across Europe and beyond by discussing the possibilities that exist for subtitling and dubbing.

Audience at the European Film Forum in the Berlinale

Commissioner Gabriel opened the forum by highlighting how culture, education and digital economy are key to shape the future society of the European Union. She added that Creative Europe MEDIA is crucial to promote our cultural diversity and European values, and she confirmed that the EU will continue supporting the audiovisual sector to improve both the situation of professionals and the competitiveness of the sector. In addition, she mentioned some of the main achievements done by the Commission in the recent years by putting cinema and the audiovisual sector high on its political and legislative agenda. You can see some of these actions in this factsheet.

How can audiovisual content circulate in a multilingual digital market?

Panellists representing different perspectives within the audiovisual and film industry argued that the challenges of a multilingual market are not only different languages, but also different cultures and traditions, different understandings and perceptions.

There are countries which only use subtitling other than for children's films and animation programmes while in other countries dubbing is essential. The decision as to whether to subtitle or dub a work therefore depends not only on the work but also on the market where that work is going to be distributed. In some countries, like France and Germany, dubbing is a necessity even if the trend to show subtitles is becoming accepted for two reasons: first because people are getting used to see a lot of original content subtitled in the internet, and second because subtitles keep the authenticity of the work, which is very valued by the new audiences.

How technology can help to overcome these challenges?

The discussions, including interventions from the floor, were at times animated but there was agreement in the room that the human factor could never be completely replaced by technology because in such a creative sector, curation and creation are fundamental.

At a time when large producers are seeking to cut costs of subtitling, machine translation was considered important to bring costs down and at the same time make works available.

Panellists shared their positive experience in using some automated tools that simplify and accelerate the translation. Nevertheless, they stressed on the need and the importance of having the text reviewed and corrected by a translator/editor at the end in order to ensure creativity and high quality.

In addition, participants called on producers and film makers to involve translators at an early stage, already at the inception phase, as this would not only ease the subtitling and dubbing processes, but would also increase the chances of a film to travel because language challenges would be addressed and solved earlier. 

While from the floor translators stressed on the importance of human translation also when it comes to the creative process, panellists stressed that technology could be helpful in making works that would otherwise not travel available.

Finally, Ms. June Lowery-Kingston from DG CONNECT shared some closing remarks. “Making European films travel is in everyone’s interest. There are tools out there that help in improving audiences experiences, in increasing accessibility of audiovisual content, and in enabling content producers to reach beyond their national audiences, and it would be irresponsible for us not to look at the possibilities that digitalisation offers to achieve this,” she said.

If you missed the lively debate, you can watch it here.

Creative Europe MEDIA Roundtables

On the same day, Creative Europe MEDIA organised two parallel roundtables, on the European Film Directory and on gender balance in the audiovisual sector.

On one hand, the roundtable on the European Film Directory gathered most of the signatories of the Cannes manifesto with the aim of discussing the launch of the pilot project in April. As part of the Digital4Culture strategy and the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, the directory will promote the visibility of European films online and facilitate access to them. Click here to know more.

On the other hand, the roundtable on gender balance was the occasion to present statistics from the MEDIA programme since 2014 on gender, and to discuss with stakeholders on what actions are needed to improve gender balance and ensure that films produced or directed by women circulate as well as films produced/directed by men.

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