Mexican indie producers aim to fight budget cuts

President Calderon plans to reduce country's film funds

Mexican independent producers are readying the battle to fight severe federal budget cuts that, if passed, would deeply elimnate coin for films in 2010.

The details of President Felipe Calderon’s budget, released late last week, detail a 46% cut for the National Film Institute (Imcine) and a 20% cut for Efecine, the popular film funding tax incentive program more commonly referred to as Article 226.

Article 226, instituted in 2006, was set up for private interests to invest up to $500 million pesos ($38 million) per year as tax-deductible donations. It provided coin to 57 of the 70 films released last year, and is credited with helping revive Mexico’s film industry.

The cuts would “bury” the film industry,” says Monica Lozano president of the Mexican Independent Producers Assn. “This would effectively dismantle the production system here.”

Imcine, with an annual budget closer to $22 million, runs two other key coin programs — Fidecine for commercial ventures and Foprocine for arthouse fare. In addition, Imcine is responsible for promoting Mexican film here and abroad as well as running numerous cultural programs in Mexico that, among other things, support scriptwriting and offer production workshops.

Foprocine is particularly important in funding low-budget, experimental projects — often first works — that would likely never be made otherwise.

That emphasis is especially important for indie producers like Mantarraya Films’ Jaime Romandia.

“I was just in Toronto and there were three or four Mexican films presented there supported by Foprocine — just as is happening in many other festivals worldwide,” he says. “That the government is trying to remove or even just diminish the operations of Imcine and Foprocine seems to be a senseless, backward way of looking at things.”

The proposed budget comes on the heels of a months-long effort by Imcine, the Mexican Independent Producers Assn. and other industry members to rework a controversial tax rule that went into effect this year, forcing investors using Article 226 coin to pay a 28% tax on the money they give to films. The topic was hotly discussed at this year’s Guadalajara Film Market.

Canana Films prexy Pablo Cruz described how current efforts involve shifting that tax burden over to the producers of the film and away from the investors.

He called the proposed cuts dramatic. “Whoever is making the budgets obviously doesn’t consider the film industry a priority,” he says.

While Imcine says unofficially that it would cut the two funding programs only as a last resort, Cruz and Lozano agree Imcine will have only enough to maintain operations and fund basic programs, noting the cuts could also effect coin from Ibermedia — the multi-million dollar pan-regional film fund for Spain, Portugal and Latin America, which also is partly funded from Mexican coffers.

Lozano says the industry is organizing lobbying efforts to urge the Calderon administration to reconsider the cuts, as well as gathering allies in both houses of Congress, and noting the efforts of an industry champion — thesp-turned-pol Maria Rojo.

With most headlines from Mexico on violence and poverty, Cine Pantera’s Christian Valdelievre cites a further unfortunate byproduct of the proposed cuts.

“It is taking away one of the positive things we show the world we can do,” he says.

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