SAN SEBASTIAN — In a move which so many countries would like to copy, but very few manage to put through, Argentina has become one of the first countries in the world, after France, to introduce primary school children to the delights of cinema and cinemas.
Move forms part of a drive to increase cinema theater audiences for movies in general and for Argentine cinema in particular. Launched from this August, the program, Schools Go To the Cinema, builds on an agreement signed during French president Francois Hollande’s visit to Argentina in February by Argentina’s go-ahead INCAA Film Institute – the same government agency which created movie market Ventana Sur with the Cannes Festival and Cannes Film Market in 2009 – and France’s CNC film agency and the French Institute.
The pact lead to a four-day Buenos Aires workshop in early June at which French specialists met with Argentine counterparts to study how to implement in Argentina a version of France’s hugely successful and inspiring College au Cinema education program.
Now up-and-running in seven of Argentina’s 24 provinces, including Cordoba and Salta, the Argentine initiative sees primary school students being taken to cinema theaters to watch Argentine films, and classes where they are taught the basics of how to analyse movies.
Preliminary conclusions from the Schools Go to the Cinema initiative will be discussed at the 2016 Ventana Sur market, which runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, with the aim of establishing strategies for 2017, INCAA president Alejandro Calcetta said at Spain’s San Sebastian Festival.
The cinema curriculum has to be discussed with the governments of each and every Argentine province, he added. The initial reaction has, however, been highly positive, Cacetta said. “We have been able to put the logistics into place and launch in just two months, which is great,” he added.
“The children have often seen very little cinema, and, of what they have seen, very few Argentine films.” Cacetta said. “And the films they have seen are normally viewed online,” he added.
Argentina’s INCAA has also launched a web-based call for applications for a competition, aimed at 13-18s, entitled rather like an Almodovar film: Que Necesita el Cine Argentino Para Que Chicos como Vos Lo Vean?” (literally: What Does Argentine Cinema Need to Do So That Kids Like You Would Watch It?) A Jury including Academy Award winning director Juan Jose Campanella (“The Secret in Their Eyes”) and Sebastian Borensztein (“Chinese Take-Out”) has selected seven winning suggestions, to be announced in October.
“The proposals are really very interesting,” Cacetta said. Punching a 13% market share for Argentine films in 2016, Argentina, with Brazil, is the only country in Latin America where its own national films regularly notch up a double-digit slice of total box office grosses.
Now it wants more. The cine curriculum initiative is conceived “as a long-term program which we hope to scale up over time so that it becomes part of state policy,” Cacetta commented, adding that it was no coincidence that France, which launched its own school cinema lessons in 1989, has one of the biggest domestic shares of any national cinema in Europe – 34.6% this year through August, according to CNC statistics.
“I come from production. 10-to-15 years ago, the major concern was production. But now the production sector is mature, virtually guaranteeing a quantity of quality films,” Cacetta argued.
He added: “The focus and real work has now got to be on distribution and exhibition. If we only produce but can’t show our films, we will become a cinema cemetery.”
The INCAA will shortly announce regulation addressing movie development and distribution in Argentina, establishing a cinema support system for every phase of a film’s industry cycle, Cacetta anticipated.