Portuguese funding fix

Investment bank Banif picked to manage film and TV coin

The crippling 12-month impasse in funding for the Portuguese film industry seems to be over.

The National Film Institute (ICA) has appointed investment bank Banif as the new management body for its €83 million ($112 million) Fica film and TV fund.

Fica was launched in 2004 as a statutory public-private partnership funded by the state, telcos and broadcasters. But it only became operational in 2008, investing around $25 million during its first 12 months in projects including TVI’s $10 million TV series, “Equador.”

Fica ground to a halt in early 2009 as the cash-strapped Portuguese government found it difficult to pony up its 40% funding commitment, and private broadcasters, such as TVI and SIC, got cold feet.

In the throes of an economic crisis and the downgrading of Portuguese national debt, the local film industry is at a virtual standstill, with Fica on hold and ICA paralysed by falling income from TV advertising levies.

A crisis manifesto signed by 2,300 people, topped by veteran director Manoel de Oliveira, recently jumpstarted the search for new management for Fica.

Former management body, ESAF, was reportedly uneasy about the state’s use of EU structural funding to finance Lisbon-based producers and failed to create a specialized investment committee staffed by industry professionals.

Banif will face a steep learning curve as financial analysts try to fathom complex film financing proposals and satisfy at least part of the desperate funding needs of local producers.

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