Spain starves booming film industry of funding

Spain's conservative government defended on Tuesday its sharp cuts to state funding of cinema, saying the financial model for the movie sector needs to be changed.

Spain starves booming film industry of funding
Movie poster for Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia's newest film Witching ang Bitching. Photo: Blog de Cine

The draft budget for 2014 approved by the cabinet on September 30 sets aside €48.2 million ($65.4 million) for the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts, the state body which finances films, a 12.4 percent drop from the previous year.

The institute already saw its budget plunge by 22.6 percent in 2013 from 2012.

"For the government, cinema is a priority for culture in our country. But it needs a change in the structure of its financing," secretary of state for culture, Jose Maria Lassalle, told a parliamentary committee.

Spain has produced a number of internationally acclaimed directors such as Oscar-winner Pedro Almódovar and has gained a reputation for clever, low-budget thrillers, art house films and psychological horror movies.

Critics of the government policy charge that these types of films will disappear as state subsidies are cut because producers will be more likely to seek guaranteed box office returns.

"Since 2011 we have seen the budget for culture in general fall by 35 percent, or €380 million, and by 58 percent for cinema alone," said José Andrés Torres Mora, a lawmaker with the main opposition Socialist Party.

The cuts to film subsidies come as the sector is reeling from a drop in cinema attendance in a country where one in four people is out of work.

The number of cinemas in Spain dropped to 841 in 2012 from 1,223 a decade earlier, according to culture ministry figures.

The number of people who bought tickets for film dropped to 94.2 million in 2012 from 140.7 million in 2002 and is expected to dip further this year.

The rise in the value added tax that is slapped on movie tickets to 21 percent last year from 8.0 percent contributed to the decline in movie attendance, film sector officials say.

Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro rejected the accusation that government austerity measures were to blame for the difficulties faced by the film sector.

"The problems cinema is having are not only linked to subsidies, they are related to the quality of the movies that are made, their commercialisation and many other things," Montoro said during an interview with news radio Cadena Ser.

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‘The Girls’ wins big at Spain’s live-streamed 2021 Goya awards

Pilar Palomero’s debut coming of age film ‘Girls’ was the big winner at the 2021 Goya Awards on Saturday, held via a live-streamed ceremony.

‘The Girls’ wins big at Spain's live-streamed 2021 Goya awards
Antonio Banderas presented the 35th Goya Awards with Spanish journalist María Casado. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The Goyas, Spain’s prestigious annual film awards ceremony, was held at the Teatro del Soho CaixaBank in Málaga. It was a hybrid on-site/virtual ceremony, with no audience nor nominees attending in person.

‘The Girls’, a generation portrait of Spanish women who would now be in their 40s, swept the awards, winning best picture, best new director, best original screenplay, and best cinematography.

Nominees appeared on a large video screen in a Zoom-like setup, and winners accepted prizes from their own homes with their families, giving the ceremony a more intimate feel than usual.

Málaga-born Antonio Banderas directed the ceremony, and other big stars such as Pedro Almodóvar, Penélope Cruz, Paz Vega, and Alejandro Amenábar also made appearances to present the awards.

The non-audience format gave the ceremony, which is broadcast on TV, a larger reach than usual. Celebrities including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron, and Isabelle Huppert sent in pre-recorded messages of support.

Just two days before international women’s day, gender issues featured strongly in nominated films and acceptance speeches. Women won almost as much as men, taking 12 categories, and Daniela Cajías became the first woman director of photography to win the best cinematography award for “Girls.”

In other categories, Mario Casas won best actor for “No Matarás” (Cross the Line), about a good-natured man who has an unexpectedly deadly confrontation, and Patricia López Arnaíz won best actress for her role in Ane (Ane is Missing), in which she plays a mother who investigates her daughter’s disappearance.

The Honorary Goya was awarded to actress Angela Molina, who starred in Luis Buñuel’s last film, “The Obscure Object of Desire”.

Last year, Pedro Almodóvar’s semi-autobiographical film Pain and Glory was the star of the ceremony, winning seven honours, including best picture, best director, original screenplay, and best actor for Antonio Banderas.