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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 7552

Senator Hanson-Young asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, upon notice, on 26 August 2009:

   With reference to the grant of $316 532 of public funds provided by the Australian Film Commission and Film Finance Corporation Australia (now Screen Australia) to the film, Stolen, screened in June 2009 at the Sydney Film Festival:

   (1)   Was Screen Australia ever informed of problems related to the production of Stolen.

   (2)   Was Screen Australia made aware of the allegations that the translations were inaccurate and that money was paid to the participants to make allegations about practices of slavery; if so, what did Screen Australia do in response to these allegations.

   (3)   Is it general practice that written consent or evidence of oral consent must be provided by participants in documentary films funded by Screen Australia; if so, has Screen Australia ever received written or evidence of oral consent from the participants in this documentary; if not, why not.

   (4)   Did Screen Australia receive a request from the main character in the film, Fetim Sellami, in writing and on camera that her interviews not be included in the film; if so, why was such a request ignored.

   (5)   Was Screen Australia made aware that the final film would allege that slavery existed in the Saharawi refugee camps in south west Algeria; if so, when.

   (6)   Was Screen Australia aware that this allegation is strongly disputed by the Saharawi refugees, including those interviewed in the documentary.

   (7)   What was the role of the Moroccan Government in the production of the documentary.

   (8)   Have the film-makers received funding in any form from the Moroccan Government.

   (9)   Is it the case that the wife of the producer of Stolen, Ms Julie Overton, is employed by Screen Australia as an Investment/Development Manager; if so: (a) was Ms Overton involved in any discussions or decisions made with regard to Stolen; and (b) was Screen Australia aware of Ms Overton’s relationship with the film’s producers when the decision was being made to fund the film; if not, when was Screen Australia made aware of Ms Overton’s personal connection with the film’s producers.

Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

It should be noted that the funding for the film was in fact $251,582, provided in the form of a recoupable investment rather than a grant.  Of this amount, $50,000 was provided by the former Australian Film Commission (AFC) as assistance for development, and the balance ($201,582) as production funding by the former Film Finance Corporation Australia (FFC).

(1)   Yes, it was.

(2)   Yes, it was.         Screen Australia consulted the filmmakers, who advised that the relevant translations had been verified by a National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters recognised translator.  The filmmakers have publically denied the allegations that participants in the documentary had been paid to make allegations about practices of slavery.

(3)   Yes it is.         Documentary filmmakers ordinarily obtain written consent or evidence of oral consent (such as consent to camera) from significant participants. Screen Australia’s general practice is to require evidence of the consent of participants in a documentary film where those participants are principals in the sense that their participation is critical to the production.         The Production Investment Agreement for Stolen did not identify any principal participants.

(4)   Subsequent to the filming, Screen Australia did receive copies of requests made to the filmmakers by Ms Sellami not to be included in the film.  On balance, and given the advice from the filmmakers, Screen Australia agreed that disclosure of Ms Sellami’s withdrawal of consent would provide the appropriate balance to the film.

(5)   Yes, it was.         Screen Australia’s predecessor organisation, the Film Finance Corporation Australia (FFC), approved investment in the film on 12 December 2007 in the knowledge that the film would explore the theme of slavery in the refugee camps of the Saharawi in south-west Algeria.

(6)   Screen Australia was aware that the allegation of slavery was the subject of dispute among some of the Saharawi refugees. 

(7)   Screen Australia has not been informed of any role played by the Moroccan Government in the production of the documentary. 

(8)   The filmmakers have advised Screen Australia that they have not received funding from the Moroccan Government. 

(9)   Yes

(a)   No

(b)   Yes