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Global Village: H’wood Subsidy Gets EU Blessing; Newsies Get an Iraq Crackdown; Unifrance Gets a Surprising Topper

Int'l News Briefs: Industry Highlights from Around the World

INDIA

Ponzi Fallout: B’cast Probe
India’s Information & Broadcasting ministry has asked every TV channel to provide details of its equity structure and stakeholders. This follows the late-April demise of the Saradha Group, which operated multiple channels and publications. After the company abruptly shuttered, it emerged that its execs were operating a Ponzi scheme, with losses to investors of up to $6 billion.

* * *

Online Auds Get Porn Toon
A day after India celebrated its cinema centenary May 3, a group of filmmakers released “Savita Bhabhi Movie,” the country’s first animated porn film. Early-bird audiences could get a year’s access for $24.95 ($30 thereafter). The project began in March 2008 as an online comicstrip about a promiscuous housewife, which attracted millions of daily hits worldwide. Production and distribution of porn is illegal in India; possession and consumption are not.

RUSSIA

Popular on Variety

Sports Pics Score Big
A pic about late hockey star Valery Kharlamov, “Legend” No. 17, tops the local box office, with $16.8 million after two weeks. And in a televised phone-in, President Vladimir Putin was asked about government funding for a biopic of soccer goalkeeper Lev Yashin. Putin said he would consider one made before Russia hosts the World Cup in 2018. Yashin played for the Soviet team in the ’50s and ’60s, and was named Keeper of the Century by soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, in 2000. His widow Valentine is wary, fearing a negative depiction of her in a fi lm: “They’d have me there naked, or dancing, something like that,” she told the Dozhd TV channel.

MEXICO

Fest Fever Spreading
Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s Inori docu, produced by Naomi Kawase, shared top honors with Hari Sama’s “Awakening Dust” at the second Riviera Maya Film Festival, which wrapped with Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder.” As the Mexican tourism biz and authorities wise up to the cachet of film festivals, the number of events — and Hollywood invitations — is growing: This year’s Riviera Maya was attended by several U.S. stars.

GUATEMALA

Telco Finds Fiscal Balm
Telefonica, one of Europe’s biggest telcos, announced the $500 million sale of 40% of its Central American biz to Guatemala’s Corporacion Multi Inversiones. That follows confirmation that Telefonica is shelving emergency plans to fl oat part of its overall Latin American biz. Since 2012, investor angst over Spain has eased, reducing Telefonica’s borrowing costs. It aims to trim debt to €47 billion ($61.6 billion) in 2013, but sales may still be in the cards.

BRUSSELS

H’w’d Lure OK’d by EU
European governments can continue using public coin to woo Hollywood productions, now that regulators have withdrawn a threat to cap the use of subsidies as bait. A complicated series of caps for non-European productions was proposed last year when the European Commission began revising public subsidy rules. The aim was to prevent European Union countries from using subsidies to compete among themselves for Hollywood projects. The bigger a movie’s production budget, the tighter the cap. These caps have disappeared from the latest draft of the policy, released for comment on April 30. Arguments that additional safeguards are needed to prevent distortions in the European market have also disappeared, leaving the policy with a much more positive attitude to foreign productions and the contribution they make to the local industry. However, the Commission says it will monitor developments in this area.

FRANCE

Journo Tops Unifrance
Isabelle Giordano, a former TV host on Canal Plus, France Televisions and Arte, has been tapped to run Unifrance, which promotes Gallic fare overseas. Succeeding Regine Hatchondo, Giordano will be in charge of organizing several French film festivals, including ones in N.Y. and Paris, and shepherding international sales agents at film marts. She has no background in film financing and international sales. Said Unifrance prexy Jean-Paul Salome: “Giordano was chosen because as a journalist, she’s highly connected with talent and filmmakers and that’s key to what we do.” Salome added that Giordano has ties with important political figures in France and in Brussels. “We need someone who has that network to defend our financing and production system at home and abroad,” he added.

ITALY

Cop Show a TV Phenom
Italy has rekindled its love affair with “Inspector Montalbano,” which nabbed a personal-best 10 million viewers for a 36.4 share of the country’s 24 million TV homes. Produced by Rome’s Palomar, the skein on pubcaster RAI 1 hit its peak with an episode about a Mafi a-and-politics mess, one day after Italy’s political paralysis finally ended with a new government. The series is among Italy’s top exports; it’s aired on BBC4 and distributed Stateside on DVD via MHz Networks.

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Bassetti Joins TV Format Firm
Marco Bassetti is the new CEO of Gallic TV format company Banijay, which has also absorbed Ambra Multimedia, the Italo shingle Bassetti set up after stepping down as Endemol Group prexy. Banijay, a conglomerate with a $500 million turnover, operates globally, including the U.S., where it produces MTV’s “Styl’D” and Oxygen’s “Love Games” under the Bunim-Murray banner.

POLAND

D.C. Hosts Kuklinski Biopic
Former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski visited the D.C. fi lming of “Jack Strong,” based on the actions of Polish army colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, who was a CIA agent in the 1970s. The pic is helmed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski and produced by Poland’s Scorpio Studio. Though some Poles consider Kuklinski a traitor, CIA analyst Aris Pappas told the Polish Press Agency he was a hero. “His motives were absolutely anti-Soviet,” Pappas said.

IRAQ

Al Jazeera License Revoked
Iraq has rescinded the TV licenses of Al Jazeera and nine other satellite news channels, claiming they are fueling sectarian violence through coverage of Sunni uprisings against the Shiite-led government. Iraq’s Communication & Media Commission cannot black out Al Jazeera’s satellite signal, but it can block journalists from reporting inside Iraq. (Al Jazeera is based in Qatar, a Sunni-ruled kingdom.) On the Al Jazeera website, reps said, “The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once suggests this is an indiscriminate decision.” Most channels affected by license suspensions are local pro-Sunni stations.

(Compiled by Tim Gray; Reported by Nick Vivarelli, Naman Ramachandran Ian Mundell, Elsa Keslassy, John Hopewell, Leo Barraclough.)

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