Spain picks critic as culture chief

Molina replaces Calvo

MADRID — Literary critic Cesar Antonio Molina will replace Carmen Calvo as Spain’s new minister of culture.

A flamboyant politician, Calvo saw a rabidly debated new Spanish Film Law approved in early June by Spain’s council of ministers.

Hiking film tax breaks for financial investors to 18% of investment, the law will do more good than bad.

But it came at a high price: a months long lambasting of the foibles and failures of Spain’s large left-leaning Spanish film industry by Spain’s press, and bitter in-fighting between Spanish producers on one side, and broadcasters, then exhibitors, on the other.

In an El Pais interview last weekend, which sounded at times like a valedictory, Calvo complained with a note of bitterness that all the film sectors had fought their own corner “with absolute disloyalty.”

Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero currently faces March 2008 general elections with a slight edge in polls over the conservative Popular Party opposition.

Zapatero will want to avoid his government’s support for an unpopular Spanish cinema becoming a campaign issue.

Hometurf audiences for Spanish films are low, with a market share for the first half of the year standing at just 7.7%. They look likely to remain so throughout the year.

Molina’s appointment may also look forward to a longer-term future in which much of a country’s national culture is easily accessible worldwide via the Internet.

“I want to prepare changes and projects for another mandate,” Zapatero said Friday morning, announcing four new ministers.

The director of Spain’s Cervantes Institute overseas cultural centers from 2004, Molina is versed in pushing what Zapatero termed Spain’s prime cultural asset, “the Spanish languages, especially Castillian Spanish.”

“Spanish culture must be appreciated and recognized for what it’s worth worldwide,” Zapatero said.

Whether his words really signal a greater emphasis on international culture exports remains, however, to be seen.

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