Gov’t body to release film funds

Controversial Ancine slow to get up and running

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian National Cinema Agency (Ancine) president Gustavo Dahl, under fire for inaction and delays in releasing funds, will finally begin granting monies to indie filmmakers in the second half of this year, he tells Variety.

Besides criticism for agency’s slow pace in fulfilling its mandate, Ancine is now the center of a debate between film industryites and members of the new government who are calling for a revision in policies.

Ancine’s founding was not without controversy: It was borne out of a September 2001 presidential decree with a mandate to stimulate local film production. The agency manages a fund fed by a new regimen of fees and taxes, collectively known as Condecine, on foreign distributors and pay TV programmers, and on imports of TV commercials. Dahl said Ancine has 20 million reais ($6.7 million) to distribute as incentives this year.

The agency will initially focus its resources to help fund distribution of local pics and production of low-budget films. Dahl attributes the delays in Ancine becoming fully operational to bureaucratic matters and the change in government early this year.

Even with Ancine slow to get up and running, local production is benefiting from the 2001 regulatory package, of which the agency was the centerpiece. The regs gave foreign distributors, namely the U.S. majors, the option of paying a new 11% tax on remittances or invest that same amount in local productions. Even the studios fighting these taxes in court are co-producing, some to great success, such as Warner with the “Xuxa” film series and Columbia with “God Is Brazilian” and the just-released “Carandiru.”

Meanwhile, foreign pay TV programmers had designated 5.3 million $1.8 million as of mid-April for local productions. In part as a result of these investments, local producers will release 30 to 35 pics this year, compared with 30 in 2002. Even if the number of local releases remains flat, industry execs predict these local productions will sell more than 10 million tickets — some forecast as many as 14 million — up from 7.3 million tix last year.

Brazilians haven’t flocked to the local pics in such numbers since 1990, when admissions totaled 10 million. That year the government shuttered its production/distrib arm Embrafilme, which precipitated a rapid decline of the Brazilian film industry.

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