A new cultural bridge was completed this week between Hollywood and Moscow, with joint hopes that the move will stimulate cooperation and exchanges between American and Soviet film and television producers and, ultimately, better understanding between the peoples of the United States and the Soviet Union. The American-Soviet Film Initiative (ASFI) was launched here Tuesday. A parallel organization has been started in Moscow. The coordinator for the Soviet wing of ASFI is Elem Klimov, president of the USSR Filmmakers Association. The American sponsors are the Fund for Peace, based in New York, and Mediators Productions in Malibu, Calif., which organized the ``entertainment summit'' that brought 10 influential Soviet film directors, actors, and writers to the US in March for two weeks of meetings.
That summit turned out to be a worthwhile exercise in consciousness-raising - an example of cultural glasnost (openness). American producers and directors examined the damaging stereotypes each country has reinforced of the other via television and movies, and discussed ways they could build bridges instead of walls between the nations.
Now ASFI, a nonprofit service organization, and its counterpart in Moscow are tangible results of the conference. The goal is for the groups to become a formal avenue of communication and cooperation among US and Soviet filmmakers by providing information and reference services and co-production consultation, and by acting as a clearinghouse for tours and festivals, exhibition screenings, and film marketing.
``Everyone is saying, `glasnost,' `glasnost,' `glasnost,' but the mechanisms of glasnost need to be built,'' says author and screenwriter Mark Gerzon, originator of the March summit and president of ASFI. ``We're trying to be one of those mechanisms.'' He said the yearly budget for the US wing of ASFI is about $250,000, provided by foundations and private donations. One of the group's large contributors is industrialist Armand Hammer, a founding director.
Fees for services will help make ASFI a self-supporting venture, Gerzon added. Currently the US wing has a staff of seven. A 14-member board of directors includes Norman Jewison, director of Yorktown Productions; Sydney Pollack, film director; Fay Kanin, writer; and Mel Shavelson, president of the Writers Guild of America.
At the press conference announcing the venture, organizers told of a press conference held in the Soviet Union the night before. ``We hope that the time difference will be the only thing separating the two wings of this enterprise,'' said Ilmar Taska, ASFI's vice-president for co-production.
Writers, distributors, and producers told of projects begun since the March summit. Gary McVey of the American Film Institute has scheduled the showing of 25 Soviet films in the US over the next three years.
``American audiences will find that Soviet films are among the finest in the world, and are done on the same large scale they are used to - casts of thousands, major special effects,'' says McVey. ``I predict they [Soviet films] will do better here than the Italian and French fare like Fellini, Truffaut, Godard.''Mr. Taska said the American films ``ET'' and ``Amadeus'' will be shown at this summer's Moscow Film Festival before being released throughout the Soviet Union.
Al Burton, executive producer at Universal Studios, has arranged for some American family sitcoms, such as ``The Cosby Show'' and ``Charles in Charge,'' to be shown to school and other groups in the Soviet Union. And Kit Galloway of Mobile Image Communications spoke of plans for multi-media teleconference capabilities between the two countries. ``If any of you have tried to phone the Soviet Union, it doesn't take you long to find out there are only two operators in Philadelphia who can put your call through. If they're busy, you wait in line. That won't do in the era of glasnost.''