Government slashes Argentine film institute’s operational funds

The Human Capital ministry announced severe budget cuts and contract terminations as part of austerity measures

President Javier Milei’s administration officially suspended the operational funding of the National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA by its Spanish initials) as part of its austerity plan for the public sector. 

A resolution published on Tuesday in the Official Bulletin established the termination of contracts and a series of cuts that effectively paralyze INCAA’s everyday operations, canceling cell phone lines, messaging services, overtime pay, meals, and transport fares.

The decision is expected to also affect national film festivals like the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, the only A-class festival in Latin America. It also suspends all financial support for national film releases.

“Today is a horrible day for Argentine cinema, one of the most powerful film production scenes in this part of the world,” wrote Chilean scriptwriter Gonzalo Maza on X, co-writer of his country’s sole Oscar-winning film A Fantastic Woman. 

Chilean script writers and directors have been inspired by Argentine films forever. They have our full solidarity in this awful moment they are going through.”

Last week, the film workers branch of state workers union ATE denounced that INCAA’s newly-appointed chief Carlos Pirovano — an economist with no prior experience in the audiovisual industry — revealed the government’s intentions to also close and sell the institute’s iconic Gaumont Cinema in Buenos Aires. There are also plans to eliminate the Cine.Ar TV channel and its online streaming platform Cine.Ar Play. 

“Despite the fact that many claim it is very prestigious, INCAA uses 66% of their income to pay salaries, and only the rest to finance audiovisual productions,” said presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni in his daily press conference. 

INCAA is an autarchic institution financed through the Film Promotion Fund. The Fund, which is also the source of INCAA’s wide support for Argentine film productions, receives money from several duties within the audiovisual industry including a 10% tax on ticket prices, an outdated 10% tax on DVD sales, and a percentage of the advertising income in audiovisual communication services.

In an official statement, the Human Capital Ministry said the self-financing nature of INCAA is “false” and they found a US$4-million deficit partly funded by the Treasury.

“Our commitment to a zero budget deficit is non-negotiable. The time when film festivals were financed with the hunger of thousands of children is over,” the ministry stated.  

“Of course, this is not about money,” Oscar-winning producer Vanessa Ragone posted on X. “It’s about devastating a cultural activity. And causing the loss of thousands of jobs (among other negative effects).” 

Argentina 1985 co-producer Axel Kuschevatzky also criticized the government’s stance against the film industry at the Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday.  

“I can’t think of why anyone would want to have less economic activity, why governments that speak of economic growth wouldn’t want to support industries like the audiovisual,” he said. 

“This is not ideological, it’s economic: the countries with the most active film production and international relevance, like the US, France, Germany, UK, Italy, and Spain, they all have mechanisms by which the public sector supports private activity.” 

Alarms have also been raised abroad by the administration’s continued targeting of Argentina’s state-funded film production. In their latest issue, the eminent French film magazine Cahiers du cinema addressed the issue on its cover, asking “Where is Argentine cinema going?” and describing Milei’s political principles as the main menace against Argentine cinema. 

The theme of the magazine’s March issue was Argentine cinema and the threats it is facing, including a list of 21 prominent Argentine filmmakers.

Cahiers readers will be surprised to find here a large number of names of unknown filmmakers. Seeing or discovering their films again was a source of an essential and now rare emotion for us: an unprecedented and healthy enthusiasm, for which we are indebted to them.”


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