Dilma Rousseff Re-election: Continuity For Film/TV in Brazil?

Dilma Rousseff Brazil Politics Rio Film
Mario Tama/Getty Images

In Rio de Janeiro last night, about 1,000 supporters of Dilma Rousseff, re-elected by the narrowest of margins as Brazil’s president, gathered in driving rain to celebrate her Sunday second-round election triumph, in which she fought off a stiff challenge by pro-business Aécio Neves.

But few are likely to have been filmmakers, musicians or top TV execs. And new film and TV measures, or culture in general, is unlikely to be high up Rousseff agenda for a second mandate. That, however, could be a blessing in disguise.

As Variety reported Sept. 29, when questioned about culture in a Globo-hosted pre-first round presidential debate, Rousseff, now with an extra four years in office, gave the impression that she thought that she and her government have been doing a great job, so didn’t really need to change their position.

All for the good, it could be argued. In her first four-year term, Rousseff, who won 51% of votes cast on Sunday, put through two crucial measures, which have had, or should have, a profound effect on Brazil’s movie and TV sectors: a March 2012 Law 12.485, obliging pay-TV channels in Brazil – and there are about 129 of them – to air at least 3.5 hours of Brazilian content in primetime; a R$1.2 billion ($484 million) funding package, just for 2014, announced July 1, targeted film and TV production, distribution and training. The new TV regs have already revolutionized local TV production in Brazil, creating a feeding frenzy for local show that is likely to be complied with in part by building international co-production.

Industry members will now be waiting with bated breath for the appointment of a new Culture Minister – there are no obvious candidates – and hoping they push through the $484 million funding, an amount matched by few governments in Europe, let alone Latin America. In such circumstances, a minister who does little would be better than one who tears down the gains of the last five years.

Rousseff has bigger fish to fry, however, such as re-booting the economy while still addressing inequality – the platform on which she won yesterday’s election. That may prove a difficult balancing act as GDP growth has slipped into technical recession.

“Although Rousseff and the Workers Party (PT) have been re-elected, they face a tough challenge to lead a Brazil that is more divided than ever,” said producer Christopher Pickard, a Brazilian specialist.

“The final result was much closer than expected and shows a Brazilian electorate that is split geographically, economically and socially. With no clear mandate for Rousseff, she faces the challenge that the people that generate the wealth and jobs in Brazil did not vote for her. Plus Sao Paulo and other key states, as well as the Senate, will be in opposition,” he added.

But Rousseff, whose conciliatory victory speech came after a bitter campaign by both incumbent and pretender, may well want to reach out to Brazil’s disaffected content creation sector. Prominent members – director-producer Fernando Meirelles, musician-composers Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, had come out in favor of Marina Silva, who lost out in a first round to both Rousseff of the Worker’s Party, and Aécio Neves, leader of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB),.

In Rio state, PMDB governor Luiz Fernandes de Pezao won re-election. PMDB’s Eduardo Paes, the mayor, and backer of pioneering investment fund RioFilme, the Rio Film Commission and the Rio Festival, one of Latin America’s biggrest film events, still has two years to serve in office. Total investment made by the City-backed RioFilme, a Municipal Culture Incentive Law and a Viva Rio Culture Program stood at R$209.4 million ($83.8 million) over 2009-14.

Brazil’s man to watch may be PSDB’s Geraldo Alckmin, re-elected as governor of Sao Paulo, a state whose economy is larger than Argentina’s. He now has a senate behind him, may want to make a second presidential run, and fire-up measures such as a Sao Paulo SP Cine investment fund, the city’s equivalent of RioFilme, which has soft-launched this year.

The jury is out, however, as to whether the industry will make any progress on two rallying cries, voiced earlier this month at the Rio de Janeiro Festival. One is rebates for international shoots, backed during the Rio Festival by Eduardo Eugenio Gouvea Vieira, president of FIRJAN, Rio de Janeiro’s powerful federation of industry assns. A second: Cutting through the impossible swathes of bureaucracy to allow producers to tap subsidies far more quickly, especially on international co-productions.

FIRJAN is talking with the equivalent of Rio’s PGA, the Rio State’s Interstate Association of Audiovisual Industry (SICAV), to present a study to both Brazil’s federal government and its new Rio state government. The study would argue with figures and data the benefits of instituting rebates for international shoots, Gouvea Vieira said. SICAV is also holding talks with Brazil’s powerful ANCINE, Brazil’s federal film-TV agency, on how to accelerate film subsidy adjudications.

Rio de Janeiro, indeed Brazil at large, may want to get the 2016 Rio Olympics out of the way, then play off improved studio facilities and infrastructure to launch new measures such as rebates for international shoots, in order to keep the world’s gaze part fixed on Brazil.

Others matters in Brazil anyway seem more pressing. For Pickard, “Half the country will now want to see if the defeated candidate, Aecio Neves, and the opposition will make sure that the accusations made against the government during the elections in regard to Petrobras, a state oil company, and other dealings are fully investigated and those responsible in the government brought to justice, if there has been wrong doing.”

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