Mike Downey

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Board Membership

European Film Academy

Founded in 1988, the European Film Academy now unites more than 3,000 European film professionals with the common aim of promoting Europe’s film culture.

Mike first joined the board of the European Film Academy 15 years ago and has served alongside a broad range of European film makers including Istvan Szabo, Volker Schloendorff, Wim Wenders, Nikita Mikhalkov, Pawel Pawlikowski, Agnes Jaoui, Krzystof Zanussi, and David Mackenzie . In 2019 Mike took over the chairmanship and he was joined by Agnieszka Holland as President 2020 taking over from Wim Wenders.

Official website of European Film Academy

The European Film Awards

The European Film Awards have been presented annually since 1988 by the European Film Academy to recognize excellence in European cinematic achievements.

The awards are given in over ten categories, of which the most important is the Best Film. They are restricted to European cinema and European producers, directors, and actors. The awards were officially also called the "Felix Awards" until 1997, in reference to the former award's trophy statuette, which was replaced by an un-named statuette. Every year, the various activities of the European Film Academy culminate in the ceremony of the European Film Awards which are presented jointly with EFA Productions GmbH. In a total of 22 categories, among them European Film, European Director, European Actress and European Actor, the European Film Awards annually honour the greatest achievements in European cinema. The awards ceremony takes place in Berlin every second year. In the other years, the Awards travel: London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Malta, Riga, Wroclaw, Sevilla ...

Official website of The European Film Awards

LUX Audience Award

LUX - The European Audience Film Award (short: LUX Audience Award) by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy (EFA) demonstrates the European Parliament’s commitment to culture. The initiative promotes cultural diversity and provides a tangible support to cinema and the arts.

The new prize is now called “LUX – the European Audience Film Award by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy and in partnership with the European Commission and Europa Cinemas“.

While the LUX Prize was so far voted for by the members of the European Parliament, the winner of the new LUX – the European Audience Film Award will now be decided by a vote from both the Members of the European Parliament and the public.

The nominations will, as before be decided on by a panel of experts, new honorary president of the panel is EFA Chairman Mike Downey. These nominations, usually five (in its first edition, due to Covid-19, only three) will be announced as part of the European Film Awards ceremony in December.

This new award is built on the LUX Prize, the film prize of the European Parliament established in 2007, and on the EFA’s People’s Choice Award, introduced in 1997. The selected films raise awareness about current social and political issues, and they reflect the beauty and diversity of European cinema. The award will continue building bridges across Europe, as one of the LUX Prize’s objectives, by shedding light on films that go to the heart of the European public debate.

The new award aims at strengthening ties between politics and citizens, by inviting European audiences to become active protagonists by voting on their favourite films. The aim is to get audiences engaged in debates about Europe, specifically in ‘living Europe’ through inspiring European films.

The Parliament believes that cinema, as a mass cultural medium, is an ideal platform for debate and reflection on Europe and its future. And the European Film Academy, uniting over 3800 filmmakers across Europe, has been dedicated to promoting European film culture since it was founded in 1988.

While facing the current economic and social crisis, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, where arts, culture and cinema are very much under threat, the LUX Audience Award aims to support European creativity and diversity. Advocating for European cinema is a remedy to overcome isolation, physical and psychological boundaries that affect Europe.

Official website of LUX Audience Award

International Coalition for Film Makers at Risk

As co-founder and Trustee of International Coalition for Film Makers at Risk (ICFR), Mike has formalised and continued the work he started as a leading campaigner for the release of Ukrainian Film Maker Oleg Sentsov, imprisoned by the Russian FSB in Simferopol, Crimea in 2014.

Finally released in September 2019, Mr Downey campaigned relentlessly with EFA, PEN, Amnesty and artists like Ai Wei Wei and Pussy Riot, establishing a fund for his family and legal fees, and finally achieving his release after Sentsov’s 145-day hunger strike. The ICFR is a partnership between EFA, the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam and the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Having worked as ‘amateurs’ learning on the job to get Sentsov freed, Downey, decided that given there will be film makers at risk in the future, he should establish a professional organisation that can marshal its forces and act in a much more effective manner.

In setting up the coalition, Downey’s key goals with his partners are: to advocate for and to act in solidarity with filmmakers at risk. The Coalition will respond to cases of persecution or threats to the personal safety or liberty of these filmmakers as a result of their work and will defend their right to continue their work, by mobilizing the international film community. Activities include: advocacy, emergency funding, accessing support systems, monitoring and observatory. Mr Downey has also been responsible for bringing in Dame Helen Mirren as the Patron of the ICFR.

To activate the film community’s collective response to cases of filmmakers facing severe risk, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, International Film Festival Rotterdam and the European Film Academy have joined forces in establishing the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk.

With civil society in danger around the world, filmmakers are increasingly struggling to make their voices heard. Over the past few years, the world has seen a growing number of filmmakers being threatened, arrested, imprisoned and even killed in an attempt to silence them.

In these critical situations, the international film community could make a difference in supporting campaigns for the freedom of these filmmakers or pressuring authorities for their release. As the response of the film community has so far been deeply fragmentized, more co-ordinated action is needed.

The mission of the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk is to advocate for and to act in solidarity with filmmakers at risk. The Coalition will respond to cases of persecution or threats to the personal safety of these filmmakers and will defend their right to continue their work, by mobilizing the international film community.

Activities will include:

  • Advocacy
  • Accessing the support system
  • Monitoring and observatory

The Coalition will closely collaborate with an international network of strategic partners:

  • International film networks
  • Affiliated NGOs
  • International human rights networks
  • Ambassadors

Official website of International Coalition for Film Makers at Risk

The Arctic Indigenous Film Fund

The Arctic Indigenous Film Fund (AIFF) is an international collaboration, with partners in the whole Circumpolar Arctic, including Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

In early 2019, after chairing the board meeting of the European Film Academy with the Sami community in Kautokeino Mike Downey became one of the founding board members of the Arctic Indigenous Film Fund. Other board members include former prime minister of Greenland, Kuupik V. Kleist as well as Sundance’s Bird Runningwater.

The overall goal of AIFF is to support high-quality film and TV productions and co-productions with indigenous peoples in Arctic regions and create new financing models that facilitate audiovisual production by indigenous peoples in the Arctic. AIFF creates a platform for indigenous filmmakers from all across the Arctic to collaborate. The aim is to enhance indigenous communities and create new business opportunities in remote Arctic areas.

AIFF will also actively work to give young indigenous people in the Arctic opportunities to work in the media and digital business in their own communities.

The establishment of an Arctic Indigenous Film fund comes at an important time; with the Arctic being the focus of much global attention due to the effects of climate change. The increased interest by the global business community in the Circumpolar region, requires that the voices of the Indigenous peoples in the Arctic are heard. Indigenous cinema represents a celebration of Indigenous artistic expression, strengthens the rights of Indigenous peoples living in the Arctic and creates new business opportunities for Northern producers.

The main activities of the Arctic Indigenous Film Fund are to support development of high quality Indigenous film/TV productions, support production of high quality Indigenous film/TV productions, encourage and create new platforms for Arctic co-productions, and help produce culturally-relevant film and TV series. The fund will also build a network between film institutions, companies, producers and Universities, thereby strengthening business and competitive advantages; organize film and TV education for young Indigenous talents; and lead common projects and programs with partners.

Official website of The Arctic Indigenous Film Fund

BAFTA – The British Academy of Film and Television Arts

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is an independent charity that supports, develops and promotes the art forms of the moving image by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the public.

As an active member, Mike has served as part of the BAFTA Council for three terms as well as spending a year on the the Film Committee. The film committee advises on, make recommendations on, and oversee delivery of their sector’s Awards on behalf of the Board of Trustees. Council is a larger body which meets three times a year under the chairmanship of the Academy’s Vice Presidents, Duncan Kenworthy OBE and Sophie Turner Laing. Council’s role is to advise the Board of Trustees and act as a wider forum for discussing important issues.

BAFTA is proud of its expert membership of approximately 6,500 individuals in the UK and the US and of its vast collective experience across film, television and games. BAFTA identifies, rewards and celebrates excellence at its internationally renowned annual awards ceremonies, while providing many opportunities for the public – as well as industry practitioners and emerging talent – to find information and inspiration through its year-round programme of events, initiatives and activities.

It is committed to sharing insights into the crafts of the people who work in film, television and games by staging over 250 public events a year across the UK, the US and beyond. This wide-ranging programme of events gives members, the industry and the public at large many opportunities to learn first-hand from the finest practitioners in the business.

Official website of BAFTA – The British Academy of Film and Television Arts

The White Ribbon Alliance

White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. The mission is to catalyse and convene advocates who campaign to uphold the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth.

The goal is to ensure that all women realise their rights to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth. The organisation’s vision is a world where the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth is upheld.

Mike joined the Board of Trustees of the White Ribbon Alliance in the UK seven years ago with the aim of contributing to holding governments accountable and campaigning for them to deliver on their commitments.

Progress has been made. Deaths are down by half since 1990 and maternal health is on the global policy agenda like never before. A cost-effective model shows that a small investment in a few staff, as opposed to delivering services, has incredibly powerful results. The work of the Alliance has successfully persuaded governments to increase the number of midwives, the type and quality of health services and increased the number of women accessing services.

Official website of The White Ribbon Alliance

Isango Ensemble International Board of Trustees

Isango Ensemble is a South African theatre company that draws its artists mainly from the townships surrounding Cape Town. Their stage productions and films have played to sold-out audiences across the world, and we’ve received numerous international awards.

Isango’s productions re-imagine classics from the Western theatre canon, finding a new context for the stories within a South African or township setting thereby creating inventive work relevant to the heritage of the nation. The company’s structure embraces artists at all stages of their creative development allowing senior artists to lead and contribute towards the growth of rising talents.

Director Mark Dornford-May and Music Director Pauline Malefane formed what is now the core of Isango Ensemble in Cape Town in 2000. From the beginning the company has drawn its performers from the previously disadvantaged townships surrounding the city. Isango creates performances with a strong South African flavour by re-imagining Western theatre classics within a South African or township setting and by creating new work reflecting South African heritage.

Mike is part of the international board of trustees who act as global ambassadors for the company, and in the case of Mike, develops and produces films out of the theatre work. Ian Mckellan leads the international Board of Trustees for Isango which includes:

  • Sir Ian McKellen (Patron) – Actor
  • Baroness Gail Behr – Designer
  • Sharon D. Clarke – Actress
  • Stephen Daldry – Film Director
  • Mike Downey – Film Producer
  • Kwame Kwei-Armah – Artistic Director; Center Stage Baltimore, USA
  • David Lan – Artistic Director; Young Vic, London, UK
  • Sean Mathias – Theatre and Film Director
  • Sir Simon Rattle – Conductor
  • The Rev Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth

Their first film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha won the Golden Bear in Berlin and second film Son of Man which premiered in World Cinema Competition in Sundance, were filmed on location in Khayelitsha, along with the Benjamin Britten adaptation UNOGUMBE and propelled this historically disadvantaged township into the international spotlight. Local residents were given the opportunity to be part of the films and U-Carmen was premiered in Khayelitsha's O. R. Tambo Sports Centre, playing there for three weeks to excited audiences. Isango intend to further develop this process by building a truly mixed audience, reflecting and uniting our diverse South African nation. More recently Breathe- Umphefumlo was presented at the Berlinale as a Berlinale Special.

"The Isango Ensemble is unique," says Isango’s Patron, Sir Ian Mckellan, "I believe no other theatre group in the world so successfully brings theatre classics into a modern, wholly African, expression."

Official website of Isango Ensemble International Board of Trustees