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Festgoers fight to save tax scheme

Event protesting gov't move, may draw 100,000 visitors

UTRECHT — The Dutch film community moved into high gear here at the 23rd Netherlands Film Festival with an unprecedented campaign to block the government’s decision to yank the Dutch tax incentive scheme as of Jan. 1.

Fest director Doreen Boonekamp set the agenda Sept. 24 at the opening of the 10-day fest, pointing out that Dutch audiences are coming back to the cinema because of the very incentive policies the government wanted to cut. “I wanted everyone in the industry to use this festival to do what is necessary to keep Dutch film alive,” she told Variety. The fest was expected to draw 100,000 visitors by the event’s last day, Oct. 3, up from 90,000 a year ago.

“Dutch people want to see Dutch films,” Boonekamp says.

But the cabinet and three ministries involved in putting together the tax scheme, credited with pushing Dutch film’s share of the box office above 12% this year, have already said they will not renew it. In the next few weeks, parliament must approve the cabinet’s budget recommendations, and some filmers believe the government will save the day. “Thank God parliament has the last word,” says Toine Berbers, director of the Dutch Film Fund.

But Dutch lenser Robert Jan Westdijk, whose film “Phileine Says Sorry” opened the fest, believes “parliament will stand down. This is a country that does not see film as something worth fighting for.”

Westdijk, who is half American, says he already is planning on a smaller budget for his next film.

Staccato Films producer Emjay Rechsteiner says the time for mincing words is over. “We have reason to sue. The government has made a number of promises they have not lived up to,” he says, noting the tax scheme was supposed to get a five-year trial but has been stopped and started at every turn.

Rechsteiner and vet exec San Fu Maltha produced “The Emperor’s Wife,” a tax scheme-funded pic that premiered at the fest.

The Dutch Assn. of Film Producers and other trade orgs used the fest to launch a campaign to gather signatures at every theater in the country to save the tax measure.

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