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Global Village: Tunisia Wary of ‘Blue’; India Networks Go Black, More

International news briefs: Industry highlights from around the world

INDIA

India Censors on a Spree
India’s Information & Broadcasting ministry has blacked out Comedy Central for 10 days, beginning May 25, for airing two primetime shows deemed offensive. The channel aired standup program “Comedy Central Presents” a year ago, which “carried obscene dialogue and vulgar words derogatory to women ” according to the ministry. On July 4, the channel aired prank show “Popcorn,” where a man simulated sex with a dummy; the ministry found this to be “vulgar, obscene and against good taste.” Separately, India’s National Commission for Women has served notice on Eros Intl.’s Kishore Lulla and Saif Ali Khan and Dinesh Vijan of Illuminati Films, producers of hit zomcom “Go Goa Gone” for including a song titled “Slowly Slowly” that is “offensive and contains lyrics that encourage violence against women.”

MEXICO

Baja Heats Up Second Fest
The second Baja Film Festival will get an extensive makeover under new director Alonso Aguilar as it aims to forge stronger links between Mexico and Hollywood. Unspooling Nov. 13-16 in Los Cabos, Baja will bow Works in Progress and Mexico First new director sidebars; launch a Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund offering development and post-production grants; and mix Mexican, U.S. and Canadian features into its main competition. Seasoned international film execs Alejandra Paulin and Maru Garzon have joined fest’s top management ranks. There will still be Hollywood A-list invitees, as well as an attempt to lure more serious industry heft.

IRELAND

Popular on Variety

Tax Loophole Seeing Double
The U.S. Senate probe into Apple’s tax practices, and a similar enquiry by the U.K. Parliament into Google, have focused attention on Ireland’s Double Irish tax scheme. Under Irish law, a company managed elsewhere can be registered for tax purposes in Ireland. The nation also allows firms to move revenues from one country to another. A company registered in Ireland can legally move profi ts to an Irish subsid registered in a tax-haven country like Bermuda, thus giving rise to the term Double Irish. Companies also have the option of routing profits through the Netherlands to a tax-haven country, resulting in even lower taxes, a practice known as the Dutch Sandwich.

EUROPE

Lemche to Head EFP
The Danish Film Institute’s Christian J. Lemche has been elected president of European Film Promotion, a nonprofit org that promotes the interests of 36 European member countries at festivals and markets around the world. Martin Schweighofer (Austrian Film Commission) is the new EFP vice president; board reps are Cristian Hordila (Romanian Film Promotion), Francoise Lentz (Film Fund Luxembourg) and Teresa McGrane (Irish Film Board).

SPAIN

Kids’ Show Speaks English
As Spanish broadcasters slash fiction commissions and budgets, producers are turning to low-cost English-language production targeting international markets. Banking that an already-familiar concept will be more attractive to buyers, top Spanish indie Boomerang is shooting online rock-band saga “The Avatars,” a remake of Italian Disney original “E-Band.” Co-produced with Italy’s Fly Distribuzione TV and Brave Films, the youth series mixes New Yorkcast American leads — Tyler Young, Gabi Carrubba, Kirk Bonacci — with a Spanish crew. Boomerang still produces top-rated talent contest “The Voice” for Mediaset Espana. But the economic crisis has forced producers to look for new lines of work, producer Alfonso Blanco told Spanish website Vertele.st and Australia’s Ten.

BELGIUM

Fund Backs “White Knights”
Joachim Lafosse’s “The White Knights” (Les Chevaliers Blancs) is one of 15 feature-length films that will receive coin from Belgium’s state-backed org Wallonia-Brussels Federation. The pic is Lafosse’s follow-up to “Our Children,” which played in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2012, and earned thesp Emilie Dequenne a performance nod. Like “Our Children,” “Knights” is based on a true story. It’s inspired by on the 2007 Arche de Zoe case, which involved a French charity that attempted to bring 103 children into France from Chad, claiming they were orphans from Darfur. The drama is being produced by Belgium’s Versus Prod. and Gaul’s Films du Worso, and will start shooting in January.

FRANCE

Garandeau on the Go While at Cannes, Eric Garandeau, prexy of Gaul’s national film and TV board, CNC, kept busy on multiple fronts. The org launched a development fund for French-Italian co-productions in partnership with the Italian film board and the culture ministers of both countries, Aurelie Filippetti, and Massimo Bray. With an annual purse of €500,000 ($647,000), the fund will back up to 10 feature-length films per year. A commission of six members will meet once a year to select projects at script stage. At Cannes, Garandeau also met with the Colombian ambassador to France, Gustavo Adolfo Carvajal Sinisterra, to revise Gaul’s 28-year-old co-production treaty with Colombia. The new pact will allow French and Colombian companies to become minority co-producers on the condition that they raise at least 20% of the projects’ budget. A number of French shingles — notably Gaul’s Arizona Films, Lazennec Prod. and Atopic — are already interested in teaming with Colombian producers and tapping into the growing talent pool. The CNC also inked France’s 53rd co-production pact, with Croatia.

GERMANY

Soccer Kicks Up Ratings
Europe’s Champions League, in which the continent’s top soccer clubs battle for supremacy, has delivered the three biggest TV audiences in Germany of the year so far. The Teuton audience for the final, played between German clubs Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, peaked at 23.8 million. The Champions League final is the world’s most-watched annual television sporting event on television and social media platforms, according to UEFA, the sport’s governing body in Europe. The global aud for the final, won by Bayern, 2-1, was more than 150 million, and there were 4.8 million tweets about the match across its 3½ hours that evening.

ITALY

Beauty Sees Boffo Biz
Paolo Sorrentino’s Fellini-inspired The Great Beauty is doing great biz in Italy, boosted by its Cannes competish launch and a boffo $3 million first frame, with a $5,500 per-screen average, via Medusa, marking Sorrentino’s best domestic bow ever. Beauty has also now been sold by Pathe to more than 20 territories, with a U.S. sale deemed imminent.

TUNISIA

“Blue’s” Road to Tunisia
Tunisian media celebrated the Cannes Palme d’Or victory of Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” but the Tunisian-born Gallic helmer’s intimate lesbian love-affair pic is not likely to play on the country’s screens anytime soon. Still, Mehdi Mabrouk, culture minister in Tunisia’s Islamist-led government, congratulated Kechiche for gaining international recognition, while making no reference to the film’s graphic lesbian sex scenes. Kechiche, who is 52, left Tunisia with his family for France when he was 6. He dedicated the Palme to the young people of France and also to the “revolution in Tunisia,” adding that Tunisian youth “also have the aspiration to live free, to express themselves freely and to love in full freedom.” At the post-Palme presser, Kechiche said he would make every effort to get his film screened in Tunisia, “where I have my roots.”

(Compiled by Pat Saperstein. Reported by Leo Barraclough, John Hopewell, Elsa Keslassy, Naman Ramachandran, Nick Vivarelli.)

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