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Arts grant system is flawed, says filmmaker

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 August, 2005, 12:00am

Assessments are incomplete and fail to give the true picture, she claims

A controversial film director is questioning assessments by the Arts Development Council after her group was ruled out for more funding for the 2005-06 financial year.

Visible Record artistic director Tammy Cheung Hung - famous for her documentary Secondary School, which showed the flaws of the education system - said positive notes in three mid-year assessment reports were being ignored.

'In terms of the work we have done, I still don't know exactly what went wrong,' said Cheung.

The council granted Visible Record $294,000 for the 2004-05 financial year, the first time the group had received a grant from the government-linked council.

For each financial year taken from July 1 to June 30, the Arts Development Council hires three independent assessors to file six reports - three mid-year and three final. These reports can influence funding decisions made by a panel comprising council staff and its film and media members.

But because funding decisions are made before the end of each financial year, the final reports have no effect, which means the mid-year assessment is the panel's only guide.

In a rejection letter, the council chided Visible Record for its poor corporate management and its focus on promoting the works of an individual artist.

However, in one report, an assessor urged the council to provide more funding for Visible Record. Cheung contends her group had not only promoted her work but that of more than 20 other filmmakers at workshops and school talks, including Frederick Wiseman and Alain Resnais.

The mid-year reports were based on a limited selection of events, such as visiting the group's office to watch two DVDs and a film screening of July, both by Cheung, and a documentary workshop.

Josephine Wai Chi-fei, the council's director of arts support, declined to say how important such reports were when it came to funding decisions. She admitted the council did not draft a list of events that assessors had to attend when compiling their reports.

'We will make sure at least one assessor will attend a major event organised by an art group, but for other events, it would have to depend on the assessors' schedule. We can't expect the assessors to attend all the events.

'In the case of Visible Record, from the reports we get the impression that the group promotes works by one artist.'

But Ms Wai admitted the assessment system had flaws in that decisions were made without the year-end reports.

'We have to reach the decision before the end of the financial year,' she said. 'But decisions are made based on not just the assessment reports but also other factors, such as the group's proposals, their self-evaluation and feedback on their activities.'