Argentine government shuts down national film institute mid-film festival

The closure, which the government claims is for restructuring, comes half way through the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival and will shutter Buenos Aires’ iconic Gaumont theater

The Milei administration shut down Argentina’s National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) on Monday. Three days into one of the country’s main film festivals, staff were sent on temporary leave while the institution, which funds and supports local film production, goes through an internal reorganization.

The decision halts the activities of every institution run by the INCAA, including the emblematic Gaumont Cinema on Buenos Aires’s Congress Square. Since 2003, it has screened Argentine films for a nominal fee currently equivalent to around 40 dollar cents. For now, the Gaumont will only screen films that are part of the ongoing Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (BAFICI).

The announcement published in Monday’s Official Gazette said the institute’s activities have been suspended because it needs to be restructured, in line with the Milei administration’s plans to cut Argentina’s fiscal deficit, which it described as the need to “adapt the size of the State to its functions”. 

Established in the 1960s, INCAA manages the Film Promotion Fund, a lifeline for Argentine film production. It also organizes the Mar del Plata Film Festival. The new organizational chart included in the Gazette scraps the areas of Promotion, Oversight, Institutional Affairs, and Exhibition and Audiences.

In March, INCAA’s new president Carlos Pirovano implemented massive layoffs at the institute and halted its financial support for film schools and festivals across the country. Police arrested four people and tear gassed film workers protesting the cuts outside the Gaumont the following week.

Pirovano posted on Saturday that “public promotion policies will remain. What is going to disappear is arbitrariness, corruption and the usual friends club”. 

As with Argentina’s public news agency Télam, which was also closed for alleged reforms a month ago, there is no date or timeline for the institution to start functioning again.  

Meanwhile, at the Platino Awards ceremony on Sunday, Argentine cinema received support  from the Ibero-American film community. The evening’s big winner, director Juan Antonio Bayona, mentioned the dire situation of the Argentine film industry in his speech. Accepting the Best Film award for Society of the Snow, Bayona remembered the films of Argentine directors Adolfo Aristarain and Eliseo Subiela, and said that cinema “is a very powerful and fundamental tool for a country’s expression.” 

“To be against cinema is to be against your own country,” he said.


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