Thesp takes her case to Congress

De la Puente drafted actors' rights law

LIMA — Peru’s Elvira de la Puente blends two passions — acting and politics.

A stage, film and TV actress with nearly 40 years under her belt, de la Puente was still filming the local soap “Pobre Diabla” in 2000 when she was elected to Congress with the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance party.

“I had to shoot scenes between sessions. It was hectic, but wonderful,” she says.

Since last August she has been able to mesh both professions through her post as president of the congressional Cultural Commission. She has used the post to draft a law protecting the rights of actors and crews and is putting the final touches on a new cinema law.

“I miss acting, but this is also very satisfying,” she says. “The legislation I have introduced was written with the help of actors and directors. The commission lets me serve the country and continue to maintain close contact with my other career.”

The actors law was passed in committee Dec. 16 and is awaiting final approval by the full Congress. It gives actors and others in the film industry access to Peru’s version of Social Security and other benefits.

“Actors do not have full-time jobs, we work on a contract basis. Under the current law that means we have no benefits. The law will allow actors access to social security and benefits enjoyed by others,” she says.

The new cinema law would replace an existing law that has been on the books for nearly a decade. De la Puente says the old law has never been fully implemented. That law called for about $400,000 a year in grants to be awarded to directors to help complete films, but the government has rarely dished out the cash.

Under de la Puente’s version, a new fund would be created from taxes on movie tickets. The government currently slaps a 10% tax on the price of a ticket, and the congresswoman says that money should go to the movie industry and not the general budget.

The proposal would have generated about $2.5 million from the 12 million tickets sold last year. Ticket sales in Peru have nearly quadrupled since 1995.

The congresswomen’s proposal would also earmark a portion of the tax on cable TV connections for the film industry. This would add about another $250,000. There are approximately 400,000 cable subscribers in Peru.

“The state has to play a role in the film industry, which reflects the life, image and culture of a nation. We have a duty to promote and maintain the industry,” she says.