President Javier Milei Defunds Argentina’s INCAA, Mar del Plata Fest

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Argentina’s right-wing populist president Javier Milei is forging ahead with his administration’s plans to defund the country’s film-TV institute INCAA, which will adversely impact national film festivals such as the Mar del Plata and federal aid for national film releases, state-run cinemas and film schools, among others. It also jeopardizes the prominent Buenos Aires-based film and TV market, Ventana Sur, which is jointly organized by INCAA and Cannes’ Marché du Film.

A March 11 communiqué from Argentina’s Orwellian-sounding Ministry of Human Capital stated that the Culture Ministry had discovered a deficit of $4 million dollars at INCAA and therefore has resolved to dramatically cut the institute’s expenses, “suspending transfers to the provinces, international travel, funding for festivals, payment of overtime, hiring of mobile telephony, per diems, and other expenses.”

“Furthermore, with the aim of reducing the $8 million allocated to staff salaries, no contract for work leases expiring on March 31 of the current year will be renewed,” it continued.

The move comes after Milei’s omnibus bill proposed in January, which would have scrapped INCAA, failed to pass, after massive protests and a petition signed by the world’s most celebrated filmmakers made an impact.

Hernan Findling, president of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, said that they recently held a meeting with the newly appointed head of INCAA, Carlos Pirovano, “The resolution is very clear regarding all the cuts to be made in the Institute, which will at least freeze the industry for four months,” he told Variety.

“Regarding Ventana Sur, we firmly believe from the Academy that it is an Argentine stronghold (along with Marché du Film) that must be defended and preserved. We presented this to Mr. Pirovano, who listened to us but firmly clarified that there is NO money for Ventana Sur this year and mentioned the possibility of holding it elsewhere,” he added.

Ventana Sur co-director Bernardo Bergeret told Variety that the Marché du Film had not yet received an official communiqué from the Argentine government. However, he noted that INCAA did not have a stand at the Berlinale nor will it have one in Cannes’ upcoming market.

 “At the moment, we from the Academy are evaluating alternative proposals (Pirovano said he would listen to proposals as long as they don’t involve putting money from INCAA) so that Ventana Sur continues to develop in Argentina,” said Findling, a producer-director whose credits include sci-fi horror title “Virtual Reality” and drama “No Corre el Viento.”

Courtesy of Cine Argentino Unido

According to Findling, Pirovano, who has been criticized for his lack of experience in the film sector, also said he understood the importance of the Mar del Plata Festival [Latin America’s only Class-A festival], but it would have to be financed through private funding from hereon.

Another massive protest is being planned on Thursday, March 14, said filmmaker Celina Murga (“Ana and the Others”). The Argentine film community, which has banded in the newly formed coalition Cine Argentino Unido, has issued its own rebuttal to the government’s actions, saying:“The newly appointed President of the INCAA (National Institute of Cinema of Argentina), Carlos Pirovano, imposes restrictive and regressive measures in all aspects without providing information on a long-term strategic and artistic plan for the organization and the audiovisual industry.”

“No concrete proposals or solutions have been presented to reactivate a sector that has been completely paralyzed since last December,” it added.

The coalition’s members and supporters have been gathering since the Berlin and Malaga festivals to denounce the new government’s drive to axe government spending and rein in the country’s hyper-inflation at the expense of its culture.   

“Additionally, the lack of clarity regarding payments owed to ongoing projects seriously jeopardizes the future of production companies, which have lost all economic predictability and are on the brink of bankruptcy, seriously endangering the continuity of the direct and indirect jobs they generate, affecting more than 600,000 families,” it pointed out.

It added that the cancellation of contracts and suspension of overtime payments for INCAA’s staff would hamper the operations of the film school ENERC and the state-run Gaumont Cinema. “There is no way to guarantee the start of classes at ENERC locations in the interior, leaving hundreds of students adrift,” it asserted.

The coalition especially took issue with the last sentence in the Ministry’s communiqué that said: “Our commitment to a 0% deficit is non-negotiable. The years when film festivals were financed at the expense of the hunger of thousands of children are over.”

To this they retorted: “We urge the National Government to explain how increasing unemployment resolves poverty and hunger in Argentina. We demand that the new authorities of INCAA work together with the film community to find solutions that protect and strengthen an industry that generates employment, while preserving an invaluable cultural heritage.”

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