16.02.2017 – Ian BurleyMarie DumoraAndrea KirchhartzRebekah SmithBeatrice von Moreau, moderated by Natascha Noack

When film dialogue is professionally translated through subtitling, the viewer forgets the process of reading. As a form of literary translation, subtitling is a highly skilled technical craft and at the same time an art form. How is cultural specificity and semantic nuance transported through subtitles, and what are the limitations therein? What alternatives to classic subtitles exist? Does live voice-over present other possibilities, as it is practiced e.g. in the Berlinale’s Generation section? These and further questions are raised by experts taking Marie Dumora’s Belinda (Panorama) as a practical case study and demonstrating a live voice-over.


Ian Burley

photo of Ian Burley

After a post-graduate course in subtitling, Ian Burley began work as a subtitler and script translator for the French, Belgian and Italian film industries and has collaborated regularly with such renowned directors as Alain Resnais, the Dardenne brothers, Robert Guédiguian, Nicolas Philibert, Bertrand Bonello and Bruno Dumont. He holds degrees from the University of Swansea, Université de Bretagne Occidentale and Université de Lille III.

Marie Dumora

photo of Marie Dumora

French director Marie Dumora has completed nine films, all of which she has filmed by herself. They were all are shot within just a few kilometres of each other in Eastern France, thus creating a cinematic terrain where one film leads to the next. Her films have won awards at various festivals, including Best Documentary at FID Marseille and the Heritage Award at Cinéma du Réel. Her film BELINDA will open the Panorama Dokumente section at the 2017 Berlinale.

Andrea Kirchhartz

photo of Andrea Kirchhartz

Andrea Kirchhartz studied Theatre, Film and Television Studies in Cologne and Paris and has worked as a freelance film translator for subtitling, voice-overs and dubbing since 1999. She translates screenplays and texts in the field of Film Studies and is an interpreter at festivals. She is a member of the subtitlers’ association Untertitelforum – AVÜ.

Rebekah Smith

photo of Rebekah Smith

Rebekah Smith studied German and French at Goldsmiths College, University of London before training as a subtitler and translator in Berlin. Over the last ten years, she has subtitled and translated numerous documentary and feature films, voice-over scripts and screenplays. She is a member of the subtitlers’ association Untertitelforum – AVÜ and the Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ).

Beatrice von Moreau

photo of Beatrice von Moreau

Beatrice von Moreau is a German actress. After studying at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna, she primarily worked in theatre. Since 2003 she has also written for the stage. At the same time she began producing and distributing her own films. She co-produced the indie films BABA and HIRSCHEN, which screened in cinemas in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and are now available on Netflix. Since 2004 she has worked for the Generation section at the Berlinale as a live voice-over speaker and translator.


Natascha Noack

photo of Natascha Noack

Natascha Noack works at the intersection of language, film, music and movement. She is a dancer and choreographer, translates films and film theory, appears as a voice-over artist and is a member of the selection committee of the Generation section of the International Film Festival Berlin.


Normandie. Ses traductions aident le cinéma à s’exporter

Sionann O’Neill avec Alain Guiraudie au festival de Cannes. Elle est interprète pour le réalisateur de « Rester vertical », en sélection officielle.Sionann O’Neill avec Alain Guiraudie au festival de Cannes. Elle est interprète pour le réalisateur de « Rester vertical », en sélection officielle. | Flo Alex

Par Ouest-France

Sionann O’Neill, Américaine installée en Normandie, est traductrice adaptatrice de sous-titres, du français vers l’anglais.


« Je vis en France depuis vingt-huit ans. J’étais venue me promener en Europe et je suis restée. » Elle s’installe à Paris et s’inscrit à la Sorbonne. « J’ai fait des études de cinéma. »

Elle obtient une maîtrise et s’oriente vers le sous-titrage : « J’aime la langue, j’aime écrire, j’aime le cinéma. » Sionann O’Neill commence par traduire le film d’un camarade de fac : Pascal-Alex Vincent. « Il m’a impliqué dans un court-métrage sélectionné dans un festival, à Mamers, dans la Sarthe. François Ozon était aussi là. Il sortait de la fameuse école de cinéma la Femis. On a fait la fête en semble. Ça crée des liens. »

C’est le début d’une belle collaboration avec le réalisateur de Huit Femmes« Il avait besoin de quelqu’un pour traduire ses films. J’ai commencé avec ses courts-métrages, puis tous ses long-métrages. »

L’intégralité de l’article dans l’édition Ouest-France du samedi 21 mai 2016, et en édition numérique.

Crédit photo : Flo Alex

ASIF at the Clermont-Ferrand Festival of Short Films

2048x1536-fit_illustrateur-strasbourgeois-blutch-signe-affiche-38e-festival-international-court-metrage-clermont-ferrand-5-13-fevrier-2016-1024x665ASIF at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival

ASIF was represented at the Short Film Festival in Clermont-Ferrand and at the SPI* lunch which brought together producers, broadcasters and Unifrance representatives. After this initial contact, ASIF – together with our umbrella organization ATAA (Association des Traducteurs et Adaptateurs de l’Audiovisuel) – intend to meet the heads of SPI and Unifrance in Paris to consider possible ways of collaborating and raising awareness on the importance of our profession and good practices which facilitate professional translations/adaptations.
ATAA worked with the company MEDIA SOLUTION to offer the winner of the ‘Grand Prix’ (“Les Amours Vertes” by Marine Atlan) professional subtitles in four European languages. The aim is to publicize the level of technical expertise and quality adaptations in France. Thanks to its international audience, Clermont-Ferrand Festival is the ideal place to raise directors’ and producers’ awareness in the long term about how crucial it is to have high-quality subtitles.

* Independent Producers Union (Syndicat des Producteurs Indépendants – video, TV, cinema

Open letter from UNTERTITELFORUM & ATVE to the European Commission

Open letter on the EU Commission’s “initiative to crowdsource subtitling to increase the circulation of European works”

As professional subtitlers, we would like to voice our concerns about this initiative. In your summary, you mention the high costs involved in subtitling of between 600 and 1,000 euros per film. This is a rough and fairly low estimate. Even with the kind of time-saving professional software most subtitlers use, subtitling a feature film can take anything from four to ten days, depending on the length of the film and the complexity of the dialogue. As it is, professional subtitlers often earn hourly rates that are below the minimum wage, even though most are university-educated, experienced language practitioners. Financial pressure has been mounting for years. As a result, the rates for subtitling have dropped to a level that has often become unsustainable, forcing many to leave the profession altogether. In view of this, you may imagine our consternation when reading about your well-meaning initiative. Your aim is to increase the supply and the visibility of European audiovisual works online and increase their proportion in catalogues of VOD services available in the EU”. To make this possible, you would like to find ways to subtitle the films completely free of charge. We would like you to consider the following questions:

  1. Do you really want to outsource the business of subtitling to amateurs or machines? Condensing the film dialogue to make it readable while retaining all of the essential information, the language register and allusions to previous dialogue or future sequences within the film is not an easy task. Subtitlers need to have a feeling for the audio-visual medium as well as for the languages involved. They must have training, experience, technical understanding and the will to rewrite a subtitle as often as is necessary to convey the message and ensure that it can be easily read in the time available. As far as machines are concerned, they are still barely able to translate standardised texts let alone spoken language, which lives from colloquialisms, word play and many other features that a machine cannot grasp.
  2. How do you plan to prevent copyright infringement if one or possibly even several amateur translators are subtitling a film?
  3. What kind of workflow do you envisage? Do you plan to contract expensive editors to revise translations that have been produced quickly and by amateurs? Any professional translator will tell you that it takes longer to correct a bad translation than to translate the text from scratch.
  4. Are you suggesting that professional filmmakers and screenwriters place the fruit of years of hard work into the hands of people who could, potentially, ruin the reputation of their film overnight for the sake of a few hundred euros? Contrary to general public perception, subtitling is NOT just a translation of the text. Bad subtitling can make a mockery of a film or even render it unintelligible if dialogue is poorly translated or the translations too long for the time available, meaning that the audience are not able to follow the plot. Subtitles created through crowdsourcing projects are teeming with these kinds of errors.

If the EU is serious about wanting to provide a larger range of smaller films to a wider audience, then trying to find ever-cheaper solutions for subtitling is not the solution. No filmmaker would dream of appointing their neighbour as DOP just because they had purchased a video camera. Instead, the EU commission should try and make subtitling a standard part of the post-production process and ensure that the professionals involved receive fair rates of pay. As long as the translation of film dialogue is perceived as an inconvenient afterthought that is not accounted for in the film’s budget, subtitling will never receive the recognition it deserves. Crowdsourcing subtitling can only damage a film’s international reputation. Everyone is a loser in this scenario: decent subtitles do not come for free!

The members of Untertitelforum
The members of AVTE, AudioVisual Translators Europe
Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel, President of VdÜ (German Association of Literary Translators)
Eva Leipprand, President of VS (German Writers Association)

Berlin, September 2015

Translators targeted by scammers?

Several asif! members have recently received emails like this one:


Je suis  Mme  ***** ***** ****   . Je réside actuellement  au  Sénégal.  Je suis  à la recherche d’un traducteur, pour la traduction du Français vers l’anglais,  d’un  document  de 105 pages qui servira de support de programme scolaire ou universitaire.

Je m’adresse à vous pour vous proposer le projet de traduction du document  .Je suis désormais à votre disposition pour de future conversation et pour vous faire parvenir une copie. Afin que vous puissiez voir la cible, les objectifs. Ensuite me dire en combien de temps vous pouvez finir et me faire un devis.

NB : je dispose d’un budget de 12000 € pour la traduction, (révision et  correction).   La traduction sera destinée  à des fins pédagogiques dans les universités d’Afrique de l’ouest.

Délais  de livraison  la traduction : 4 mois.

Some of our German colleagues were contacted similarly last month, and we believe this to be a scam aiming to harvest bank account details.

We advise translators to treat this with extreme caution, to not enter into negotiations, and to not supply any personal/bank details to the sender.

If a job sounds like it’s too good to be true, then it probably is!

Audiovisual translators and translation agencies reach a collective agreement in Finland – an agreement left unsigned by one company

Click here to read the story on


After a negotiating process that was drawn out for more than five years, the Finnish audiovisual translation field now has a collective agreement. The agreement meets the most important goals of the translators. One translation agency, SDI Media, did not sign the agreement.

The collective agreement for the audiovisual translation field was signed by the trade unions representing translators, the Union of Journalists in Finland and Akava Special Branches, as well as by the following translation agencies: BTI Studios, Pre-Text, Rosmer International and Stellar Text. In addition, Saga Vera is currently in negotiations to join the agreement. One agency, SDI Media, did not sign the agreement and, therefore, its employees are not under an obligation to maintain industrial peace.

– “We made the impossible possible. This collective agreement is a fine achievement after negotiations that ran for over five years during which the composition of participants at the table changed over time”, comments Petri Savolainen, Director at the Union of Journalists in Finland.

– “The collective agreement cuts short the tailspin that the industry has been in and launches its revival. This achievement demonstrates how employees and employers that respect the quality of work can together develop their field in a way beneficial to all parties”, says Helena Lamponen, Lobbying Manager at Akava Special Branches.

– “This agreement meets the most important goals of the translators”, Helena Lamponen and Petri Savolainen comment further on the content of the agreement.

The agreement contains a scheduled programme to raise salaries and fees in increments during the contract period. Agreeing on using subtitle count as fee criterion is an important stipulation for the translators. Previously, fees were often based on programme running time, which did not take the translators’ workload into account. Another important condition included in the new agreement concerns the copyright compensations for employed freelancers.

– It is the shared objective of all parties to reach a uniform level for all translation fees during the next round of negotiations, says Petri Savolainen.

–  Additionally, it is extremely important for the Union of Journalists that when providing translations for the  Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, the Yhtyneet collective agreement is adhered to in all cases regardless of whether the work is done by permanent employees, employed freelancers or subcontractors.

The collective agreement entered into force on May Day, May 1 2015 and will be in force until the end of year 2017. On June 12, 2015, Saga Vera, a translation agency based in Oulu, Finland, joined the agreement.

An open letter to SDI Media from Finnish audiovisual translators

In a surprising turn, SDI Media, who participated in the collective agreement negotiations for the audiovisual translation field from the beginning, did not sign the agreement. Therefore, translators employed by SDI are not bound by the terms and conditions of the agreement. The same applies to the industrial peace that the new agreement brings to the field. As long as the obligation to maintain industrial peace does not apply to SDI’s translators, they have the right to take industrial action. Finnish audiovisual translators have sent an appeal to the SDI management to encourage the company to sign the new agreement without delay. In two days, the open letter was signed by 235 audiovisual translators.

On May 25, the trade unions issued application boycott on SDI Media after the agency did not sign the collective agreement by May 1. The boycott, being a legal industrial action, is in force until further notice, and means, in practice, that the unions advise their members to refrain from applying for positions within SDI Media.

An open letter to translation customers from Finnish audiovisual translators

On June 15, Finnish audiovisual translators sent an open letter signed by 292 individuals to the customers of the translation agencies urging them to encourage their translation providers to adhere to the terms and conditions, as well as the spirit, of the new collective agreement and to sign it as soon as possible, if they have not yet done so. This appeal emphasizes the need to restore the whole audiovisual translation field back to being an industry of skilled professionals providing high-quality subtitles, which Finnish audiences have been used to for several decades. In order to do this, salaries, fees and other labour terms need to be reasonable and the same to all.

Alarmingly, BTI Studios, the one large multinational translation agency that did sign the agreement, commenced co-operation negotiations with its employees with the aim of reducing a sizeable portion of its permanent workforce. The recent result of these negotiations is the laying off of 4 translators from the parent company and 9 translators from its Finnish subsidiary. In addition to this, the agency is known for widely using subcontractor translators, whose terms are a far cry from the terms and conditions of the new collective agreement.

The open letter sent to translation agency customers is available in English here.

The appeal sent to SDI management is available in Finnish here.
For further information, please contact:
Helena Lamponen, Lobbying Manager at Akava Special Branches, tel. +358 40 631 7660
Petri Savolainen, Director at Union of Journalists in Finland, tel. +358 50 534 24 85

L’ATAA et l’ASIF au Festival de Cannes 2015


(See below for an English translation)

Les traducteurs et adaptateurs de l’audiovisuel seront présents à Cannes du 13 au 24 mai pour la 68e édition du Festival international du film !

À l’initiative de son groupement Audiovisuel, le Syndicat National des Auteurs et des Compositeurstiendra pour la première fois une permanence au Palais des festivals aux côtés des autres organisations professionnelles : Niveau 01, Allée 13, Bureau 17, pendant les heures ouvrables du Marché du Film. Cette permanence sera mutualisée avec les représentants du groupement Musique à l’Image et ceux du Doublage / Sous-titrage.

Dans la deuxième semaine du festival, quatre tables rondes interprofessionnelles auront lieu sur le Pavillon du Conseil Régional Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, en partenariat avec le Commission du Film PACA : Pavillon No215, Village Pantiéro, à cinq minutes à pied du Palais des festivals. L’entrée sera libre, mais pour une meilleure organisation, vous pouvez vous inscrire en suivant ce lien :


LUNDI 18 MAI 2015 – 14:30 à 16:30

Table ronde co-organisée par le SNAC & la SRF – Société des Réalisateurs de Films
Enjeux & Réalités»

MARDI 19 MAI – 13:00 à 14:30

Table ronde co-organisée par le SNAC, l’ATAA – Association des Traducteurs et des Adaptateurs de l’Audiovisuel et l’ASIF – Anglo Subtitlers in France.

MERCREDI 20 MAI 2015 – 13:30 à 15:30

à l’initiative du SNAC & de l’AFPF – Association Française des Producteurs de Films
« Établissant la généalogie des œuvres en l’absence de producteur »

JEUDI 21 MAI 2015 – 16:00 à 17:30

Table ronde co-organisée par le SNAC & l’UCMF – Union des Compositeurs des Musiques de Films
« Etat des lieux & perspectives »

L’intégralité des tables rondes sera filmée par des étudiants de dernière année de l’école du CADASE de Toulon. Elles seront restituées sur le nouveau site du SNAC, fin juin, dès qu’il sera en ligne.

Pour contacter le Groupement Audiovisuel à Cannes :

Au plaisir de vous y rencontrer !

Audiovisual translators will be present at Cannes from May 13 – 24 for the 68th international film festival!

There will be a round table in the Pavillon du Conseil Régional Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, in partnership with the PACA Film Commission: Pavillon No 215, Village Pantiéro, a 5-minute walk from the Palais des Festivals. Admission is free, but please sign up here:

TUESDAY MAY 19 – 1:00 to 2:30 PM

A round table co-organized by the SNAC (National Union of Authors & Composers), ATAA (Association of Audiovisual Translators), and ASIF (Anglo Subtitlers in France)
on the theme:

We look forward to seeing you there.

Profile of Asif! member and Mel Novikoff award-winner Lenny Borger from the San Francisco Film Society


If you are a fan of classic French cinema, you likely have unknowingly profited from the work of Lenny Borger. His subtitle translations for new releases and restorations from Rialto and the Criterion Collection and others refine the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the original language. He once went so far as to track down a former police chief to clarify some obscure police jargon from the ’40s. Borger, a former correspondent for Variety in Paris, has also made a pursuit of rescuing rare and “missing” French films from foreign archives, including the nitrate negative of Raymond Bernard’s The Chess Player and an incomplete Czech distribution print of Monte-Cristo that led to the film’s restoration.

This year’s recipient of the Mel Novikoff Award—named after the legendary San Francisco exhibitor and bestowed upon an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the film-going public’s appreciation of world cinema—is translator, scholar and film sleuth Lenny Borger. On May 3, join us for a conversationabout the hunt for “lost” films and the unsung art of subtitling with Borger and Variety’s Scott Foundas followed by a screening of the rediscovered 1929 silent masterpiece Monte-Cristo.

Scott Foundas on Mel Novikoff Award Recipient Lenny Borger

Without Lenny Borger, how many of the treasures of French cinema would remain unknown to us-or known only in inferior versions that fail to capture the tiniest nuances of what is being said, and how? For Borger is nominally a translator and subtitler, but really he is a kind of medium, channeling the linguistic spirit of a given film and making it live anew for English-speaking audiences the world over. Consider just one example: tasked with re-translating Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic 1947 police drama Quai des Orfevres, Borger spent weeks immersing himself in arcane police slang, even going so far as to track down a former 1940s Paris police chief who’d retired to Los Angeles (and who was himself stymied by some of Clouzot’s more florid inventions).

In addition to Clouzot, Borger’s resume includes entirely new or extensively revised subtitles for films by Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion), Jules Dassin (Rififi), Jean-Pierre Melville (Army of Shadows, Le Doulos) and Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, Contempt)—many of them on assignment for the invaluable distributor Rialto Pictures, where Borger has been the house subtitling guru for the past two decades. It is a list that rivals, in literature, the work of Lydia Davis, who has done definitive English translations of Proust, Flaubert and Foucault. In movies, he has no equal.

Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn who taught himself French by listening to chansons francaises and turned up in Paris in 1977, ostensibly to work on his doctoral thesis, but with little idea of what he wanted to do with his life. Opportunity knocked first in the form of the Hollywood trade newspaper Variety, which hired Borger as its Paris-based film critic and correspondent (a post he held until 1990); and, a bit later, in the form of director Bertrand Tavernier, whose 1980 film A Week’s Vacation gave Borger his first subtitling gig. His services have been in high demand ever since.

Today, Borger is one of the great unsung heroes of one of filmmaking’s least understood disciplines. Indeed, if the average moviegoer ever thinks about subtitling at all, it is most likely in the context of titles that are difficult to read (white typeface against a white background), not on the screen long enough to fully digest or beset with some spelling or grammatical error that has somehow survived the copyediting process (it happens). In other words, we only notice subtitles when something goes awry, and never give any thought to the people responsible for putting them there. We do not think about the thousands of infinitesimal yet crucial decisions the translator has been forced to make: how to convey regional dialects and accents that, when heard in the original language, reveal important information about the characters; how to rephrase idiomatic expressions which, if translated literally, would lose their meaning; and what to do about grammatical rules (such as the dueling formal and informal second-person pronouns, tu and vous, in French) that do not exist in English. And, above all, how to do all of that in the limited number of characters available in the on-screen subtitling space—an even more constrained field than the 140-character limits of Twitter.

Yet, time and again, Borger has risen to the occasion. It is thanks to him that we now have English lyrics for the song sung by Cartier, the vaudeville performer played by Julien Carette in Grand Illusion (and left untranslated in earlier English versions), as well as an inspired English approximation of the untranslatable wordplay at the end of Godard’s A Woman is a Woman (“Je ne suis pas infame. Je suis une femme.”) There are countless other examples in a career that has spanned 35 years and more than 100 films.

That would be laudable enough, but Borger is also a critic and historian with an encyclopedic knowledge of French cinema and a passionate desire to see lost classics return to the screen. In recent years, he has programmed a survey of little-known French films made between 1915 and 1929 for the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy, and co-curated a massive and long-overdue retrospective of director Julien Duvivier for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In San Francisco, he brings us Henri Fescourt’s magnificent silent epic Monte-Cristo (1929), the greatest screen version of the Alexandre Dumas novel, believed to be lost for decades, now newly restored to its original glory.

“They say a great novel should be translated every generation and great films should be, too,” Borger has said. To that, one might add that every generation gets the translator it deserves, and we are most fortunate to be living in the era of Lenny Borger.

Scott Foundas is the Chief Film Critic for Variety. Prior to joining Variety, he was Chief Film critic for the LA Weekly and The Village Voice. From 2010-2012, he was Associate Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and has been a programming consultant to the Cannes Film Festival and the Walker Art Center.