Le Film français , 24 septembre 2004 - 2004/09/24
In this report by Hélène Cobo for Le Film français, the author notes that on the eve of the 52nd San Sebastian International Film Festival held from September 16 to 25, 2004, Spanish producers shared the high hopes placed in a new government especially preoccupied by the cultural exception. According to Cobo, it all started at the January 2003 awards ceremony for the Goyas (the Spanish Oscars), which marked the debut of an unprecedented mobilization by the Spanish film community against Spain’s presence in Iraq. Over the months, the protest movement swelled and transformed into a platform for the defense of Spanish film. Made up of some 20 professional bodies, this coalition actively denounced unfair competition from U.S. movies and proposed over two dozen emergency measures to help the local film industry.
With no response to its demands, the profession welcomed the election of a new government in March. The new government team has issued statement after statement in favor of the cultural exceptions. The new minister of culture, Mr. Carmen Calvo, introduced a decree, passed by cabinet in early July, with respect to the enforcement of a 1999 law requiring television stations to invest 5% of sales in the production of European films. Fully 60% of this amount must be allocated to domestic production in any of Spain’s four official languages. Although the requirement provoked the ire of private broadcasters, Ms Cobo reports that it was especially well received by independent producers. As the Spanish producers federation FAPAE affirmed, “this decree should help the Spanish film industry develop bigger projects and strengthen its industrial base for film and audiovisual production.”
Even though big Spanish producers succeed in having their films distributed by Americans with significant marketing clout, smaller players cannot withstand competition from U.S. studios on Spanish soil. An inadequate financial resource in a small market is one of the main problems facing Spanish cinema, one worsened by the fragmentation of production. The shortage of resources has led the industry to internationalize in recent years and develop coproduction initiatives that allow it to access the Eurimages and Ibermedia programs. This leaves public funding, a central topic of political debate in Spain these past few months. Although overall film funding has increased in recent years, arrears accumulated by the previous government weakened the Spanish industry. As professionals call for the renewal of support mechanisms for domestic film, a new audiovisual law will need to be adopted. Ms Colbo concludes that although the entire industry agrees that Spanish cinema is in a period of transition, all the players are impatiently and hopefully awaiting the first signs of change. ( Available in French )