Riera to head Catalan film board

Exec to report to culture minister Ferran Mascarell

BARCELONA — Felix Riera, a TV producer and academic, has been tapped as director of the Catalan Institute for Cultural Industries (ICIC), the governmental film board of Catalonia, one of Europe’s most active film regions.

Riera will report to new Catalan Culture Minister Ferran Mascarell, appointed Dec. 29 after Convergencia i Unio (CiU), a nationalist center-right party, won Nov. 28 Catalan elections.

One of Catalonia’s best-known and most popular of culture industry czars, Mascarell proved an energetic Culture Department head at Barcelona Town Hall from 1999 to 2006, and already served as a short-lived Culture Minister in 2006 until ousted by the then-ruling nationalist-socialist coalition, which lost power last November.

A TV producer (“Croniques de la veritat oculta”), Riera has lectured in audiovisual communication at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra and Ramon Llull universities and has been a director of Edicions 62, a Catalan publishing company from 2008.

Mascarell and Riera take up the reins of a bustling broad-based local movie industry.

Spain’s richest large region, boasting Barcelona as its capital, Catalonia produced 96 movies last year. Operating a multi-faceted film subsidy system, the ICIC, teaming with pubcaster TVC, has driven hard into Catalan-language higher-budget movies with purported wider audience appeal, offering with TVC four annual so-called “super-subsidies” of up to $2 million coin per movie, plus six grants of around $1.3 million a year.

Outlining policy, Mascarell told local newspaper Ara Friday that cinema and publishing would remain priority sectors during his mandate.

He and Riera face considerable challenges, however. One is a industry hot potato, article 18 of a new Catalan audiovisual law, approved last year, which stipulates that for Catalonia half a major release’s print run must be dubbed or subtitled in Catalan.

Though not to be fully implemented until 2017, the quota’s has met with strong opposition from local exhibitors and Hollywood studios reps in Spain.

Also, new Catalan president Artur Mas, battling a declared $7 billion ($9.5 billion) deficit, has announced a 10% reduction in state budgets and a 25% cut in public-sector workers. Just how such austerity might hit Catalonia’s film industry has still to be seen.

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