Pedro Almodóvar, Diego Luna, Andy Muschietti defend Argentina’s Film Institute

Award-winning directors, producers, and actors from all over the world signed a petition to prevent the Argentine government from defunding INCAA

Pedro Almodóvar, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Andy Muschietti, Juan Antonio Bayona, and four-time Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu are some of the dozens of Hollywood and European directors, producers, and actors who have pledged their support for the Argentine Film and Audiovisual Arts Institute (INCAA) and against cultural reforms in Javier Milei’s “omnibus bill.”

“The survival of the Argentine film industry and the community of cultural workers is currently threatened by the far-right government of Javier Milei,” reads the statement by the film industry collective Cine Argentino Unido (United Argentine Cinema). 

The document has also been signed by award-winning film stars like French actress Isabelle Huppert and prestigious directors like Walter Salles, Pablo Larraín, Asif Kapadia, Abel Ferrara, Aki Kaurismäki, and Justine Triet, whose film Anatomy of a Fall was the latest Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival. 

The bill, currently being debated in Congress, targets state support for local films by eliminating some of the National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) revenue streams and modifying its structure. Funding for INCAA doesn’t come from taxpayers but rather from allocations of audiovisual industry duties. The bill also calls for cutting off funding for state-run film school ENERC and eliminating the screen quota for Argentine films in multiplex cinemas.   

“The proposed laws entail a complete reduction in the promotion fund, also destroying the autonomy of the Film Institute. This single measure makes our work impossible. Additionally, the eight campuses of the public and free Film University (ENERC) across the country will no longer be financed,” says the statement. 

After an immediate backlash from the local film industry — which included Congress speeches by directors Santiago Mitre and Lucrecia Martel, and Oscar-winning producers Vanessa Ragone and Axel Kuschevatzky — the cultural chapter of the bill was reviewed and modified.

But the modifications, which were announced today, are seen by many as insignificant.

“The bill offered a Dracula, and after they ‘kind of’ changed it, now they are offering a Frankenstein,” a producer who is also a Cine Argentino Unido member told the Herald

For example, the new version states the INCAA funding will not be affected but still includes an article stating that the Executive Branch has the power to redistribute funds of self-financed entities (referred to as “autarchic” in Spanish). This would mean that the president could take away INCAA funding and use it for other government bodies at any time. 

Screen quotas for local films are removed, as well as the requirement that a film must be primarily spoken in Spanish to be considered Argentine and eligible for a subsidy. Therefore, any foreign film shot in Argentina could apply for state funding. 

In the original bill, the INCAA’s network of public film schools (ENERC) was completely defunded. The new version states that no more than 25% of the INCAA budget must be used for internal management, severely limiting the funding needed to keep ENERC schools running. 

Both Martel and Ragone had stated that film professionals agree on the need to reform the National Film Institute’s structure and funding system, but that this should happen following an informed debate. 

In her speech to Congress, Martel said that reading the bill reveals the people who wrote it “didn’t contact the sector, or wrote this with prejudice against the film industry, maybe due to lack of time or ignorance, and we still have time to remedy that”.

“I suggest that the bills that regulate cinema are made once the government learns how cinema works, instead of offering improvised rules.”

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